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You’re Not Allergic to MSG

MSG: It's nice

MSG: It's nice

I knew it. “Mean, uncaring bastard,” they called me, but I was right – he’s not allergic to monosodium glutamate (MSG)!

A few people I know have sworn off Chinese food, convinced that it’s loaded with MSG, and equally convinced that MSG is the source of their migraine or other current ailment. But, The Guardian reports, a study published by medical journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy debunks the whole myth.

MSG, it turns out, is harmless for the overwhelmingly vast majority of people who consume it. It’s used liberally in Chinese food, and occurs naturally in such delights as soy sauce, parmesan cheese, instant noodles, seaweed, Marmite, and breast milk. You eat it. All the time. I’ve had a bag of MSG hidden away for years, although I’ve never used it. But now, at long last, the time has come to sprinkle liberally with pride.

I’m generally skeptical about food allergies; with some exceptions (such as our own lactose-intolerant Maria Crispy) it’s a bit trendy. I’ve seen many perfectly healthy people suddenly declare themselves allergic to dairy or wheat, even though Ireland is one of the most lactose-tolerant countries in the world. Now, I’m not saying you are a hypocondriac or a liar – I’ve probably never met you and you may indeed have a genuine allergy- but I do know many people who are, at least, completely deluded.

Do you have a makey-up food allergy? Or, inded, a real one?


  1. My brother has recently convinced himself he has a few allergies (or intolerances, as I pedantically correct him… but they’re still fairly made up). I saw the MSG paper a couple of months back and sent it on to him and my sister, who is also anti-MSG, but they weren’t impressed. Some more discussion of it here ( for anyone who’s interested. I’m allergic to eggs and some types of beans (kidney beans do bad things to me, though green beans are fine), though not as badly as when I was very small… still, there are lots of eggy dishes I miss out on!

  2. My partner’s sister drives me insane with her idea that wheat causes everything from stuffy noses to asthma. Of course she also thinks that everything from stuffy noses to asthma can be cured by stupid grapefruit seed extract, so she’s just generally kind of crazy in that regard.

    The majority of the family has this inexplicable distrust of science and medicine, but she’s well educated, so she just replaces it with pseudo science.

  3. I have a tannin “intolerance”. I come out in a red itchy rash all over my body and after more than two glasses of red wine, tea and some types of cheese. I promise, it has been confirmed by my doctor. To manage it, I have cut out regular breakfast tea and but lighter wines eg Tarrango and cotes du rhone. It flares up about once every 6 weeks, but hasnt affected my wine intake. Hic.

    There are loads of chinese restaurant that dont use msg now anyway for the fussy.

  4. My daughter is lactose intolerant. 9 months of pucking and bad reflux later…. we switched her to a goat milk formula and hey presto! The pucking was gone. A spoonful of yogurt in a friend’s house and she ruined her carpet. Thank God for Avonmore Lactose free milk, it’s much cheaper than the goat milk and I can also use it in my tea.
    I don’t eat much chinese food, not because of the GMS, but because I find it too greasy and un-authentic. I love the chinese eateries that have their own chinese menu, I usually choose what my neighbours are having and it tastes much better that the awful take aways

  5. A kinesiologist told me I was allergic to MSG and promised that by cutting it out I’d rid myself of an annoying ailment. It didn’t work. I went to a conventional doctor who said I had a skin condition and gave me a topical cream. That worked. MSG 4EVA!

  6. But what would a kinesiologist know about it anyway? I thought they studied movement?

  7. Apparently they way your body moves or reacts to certain foods can reveal what your allergic to. Worked for my mum, she cut out strawberries and white wine and was instantly and completely cured as if by magic. Did not work for me.

  8. I’m mildly allergic to milk. Then I got a bronchial infection and now I’m very allergic. It sucks.

  9. I was lactose intolerant years before it was trendy – used to throw up all over my schoolbag when force-fed that EU milk in junior school. I still shudder at the thought of it.

  10. Sarah – I’m honestly not trying to be rude so please don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m fairly sure the idea that ‘the way your body moves or reacts to certain foods can reveal what you’re allergic to’ is nonsense, or at least oversimplified. I could be wrong, but I’d like to see what evidence that claim from your kinesiologist is based on. Pseudoscience / misrepresentation of science in general really raises my hackles, so pseudoscience in the realm of food – i.e. nutritionism – is a double assault. In the immortal words of Dara O’Briain: ‘Dietician is to nutritionist as dentist is to toothyologist’.

  11. MSG echoes negative connotation but what they don’t know is that home cooked Asian food of any type doesn’t use MSG …

    They are used in mainly processed food and also among restaurants to give a boost of flavour to the food..

    As an Asian, my parents keep telling me not to eat instant noodles, junk food, outside food too much as they’re loaded in MSG where you could loose hair which I agree (once I start eating out a lot)

    Also, there’s a very obvious tell tale sign if the food is loaded in MSG, that is you will feel darn thirsty after MSG kidding..

    Anyway, i’m glad Irish or western food served in restaurants in general don’t adopt’s developed in Japan which ironically, homecook or good Japanese food don’t adopt them either..

    So, ask for MSG free at a restaurant, which mostly Asian ones if you’re not comfortable with it! If you’re into junks, that explains your cravings for fizzy drinks to quench the thirst apart from the salty reason.

  12. Aidan, I’m not a kinesiologist, I just paid one €50 to tell me I’m allergic to MSG! I’m what you’d probably call an idiot.

  13. Hi Adel – I presume when you say there’s MSG in the instant noodles it’s in the little sachet of flavouring as opposed to the noodles themsleves…you know the noodles you get like egg noodles with the sachets for 30c or so….

  14. Sarah – as I said, I didn’t mean to insult you, and certainly don’t consider you an idiot. My brother is far from an idiot, but has (what I’d consider to be) gullible tendencies in this area.
    Adel – why isn’t the overload of salt itself enough to explain thirst after takeaway foods?

  15. Aidan, I was only joking, I know nobody thinks I’m an idiot. Well, apart from a select few 🙂

  16. Ah, the joys of internetty misinterpretations!