50 years ago, people thought MSG caused ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’
Excerpt from the March 8, 1969 issue of Science News
Chinese Restaurant syndrome varies —
Twenty thousand tons of monosodium L-glutamate are manufactured annually in the United States…. But, according to researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, “MSG is not a wholly innocuous substance.” … In the Feb. 21 Science, [researchers] report “evidence that it (MSG) causes headache, as well as symptoms of acute Chinese Restaurant disease–burning sensations, facial pressure and chest pain.” — Science News, March 8, 1969
Studies have consistently failed to validate claims that MSG causes illness. A 1995 report ordered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggested that some people can get symptoms like headaches or drowsiness from eating three grams or more of MSG on an empty stomach. But since the average adult consumes only 0.55 grams of added MSG per day, the FDA deemed it safe. MSG remains popular in Chinese cuisine and in products like potato chips and salad dressing. MSG’s flavor, umami, is even a taste category with its own tongue receptors (SN: 4/6/02, p. 221).