Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pinoy home-cooked meals are no longer free from MSG

We generally don't use any MSG when cooking at home. Our family is very much aware that every time we eat out, we probably get a lot of MSG from the cooked food we buy. We do make a conscious effort to avoid using MSG, so we worry a little less about health risks associated with it.

I do find a little disturbing this current trend of openly promoting the use of MSG. In past months I hardly ever paid attention to the advertising, but now that I stop to think about it, I do recall that Ajinomoto has been aggressively promoting the umami-taste concept that glutamates deliver, Maggi has been encouraging consumers to sprinkle Magic Sarap on fried egg and rice, and Knorr has been trying to create the impression that its Real Sarap product brings a “real” goodness to food owing to some real herbs and spices in its mix. The first brand tries to persuade you with science, the second brand with an unapologetic approach that simply extends to the home what is already happening in tapsilogans everywhere, and the third brand pitching “real” deliciousness even though the primary source of such deliciousness is still the MSG (i.e., if you remove the MSG and left only the “real herbs and spices,” will the improvement in taste still be significant or marginal?). At least the first two do not have any pretensions of being something they're not.

With products like these, who needs skills in the kitchen, right?

Kidding aside, this home invasion of MSG is not a good thing. It's the lazy way to make your family like your cooking. It's too much of a shortcut in trying to make your kids eat more. It certainly won't make you a better cook, parent or spouse.

Monosodium glutamate or MSG is a flavor enhancer that has caused adverse reactions known as MSG symptom complex on some individuals who have some degree of sensitivity to its presence in food. Throbbing headaches, a burning sensation at the back of the neck, even chest pain have been reported to follow the ingestion of MSG-laden foods. Though many people don't show any adverse reactions of this sort, concern over any risks MSG may pose on health still prevails partly because large doses have indeed been found to destroy brain cells in developing mice – the very reason why MSG is kept out of foods for babies.

The home is the only place left where today's children could avoid MSG and be healthier for it. Learn to cook better for them if you really love them.

(By the way, remember that post I wrote about the list of product ingredients telling you that there is more of the first ingredient than the second, there is more of the second than the third, there's more of the third than the fourth, and so on? Well, both Maggi Magic Sarap and Knorr Real Sarap have MSG second only to salt on the list out of many ingredients. So whatever herbs and spices are supposedly in these mixes, there's less of them than there is MSG.)

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