Claims of MSG being unhealthy rooted in racism, claim experts

sweet and sour pork
Fans of MSG-laden meals don't fear - it's nowhere near as harmful as you think. Photo credit: Getty.

If you're anything like me, you associate high levels of MSG with two things - delicious yumminess, and feeling guilty about the unknown damage you've just done to your digestive system. 

But for fellow fans of dumplings in spicy sauce or sweet and sour pork, do not fear. MSG isn't the poisonous substance you've been raised to think it is.

In fact, research shows it's no worse than table salt or soy sauce. 

MSG is a common amino acid naturally found in foods like tomatoes and cheese, which is then extracted and fermented and used to flavour those savoury, umami foods we love. 

However, it's long been associated with 'Chinese restaurant syndrome' (CRS): where people allege they suffer symptoms like dizziness and palpitations after eating it. It quickly became villified and 'CRS' was even added to the Mierriam-Webster dictionary. Many Asian restaurants claim to not use MSG as a selling point. 

Now, a new campaign is attempting to break the stigma. 'Redefine CRS' is a project led by Japanese-seasoning company Ajinomoto, advocating for Merriam-Webster to edit its definition of CRS. 

Several Asian-American figures, restaurateurs and medical professionals have spoken out against the misconceptions, including famous restaurateur Eddie Huang, who points out that MSG is not only delicious, but found in hundreds of commonly used foods we use every day.

"Calling it Chinese restaurant syndrome is really ignorant," he says in a Redefine CRS video. 

The official Merriam-Webster Twitter account responded to one of the tweets, saying it's grateful when "readers can point us toward a definition that needs attention". 

"We will be reviewing the term and revising accordingly," the company added.

It's not the first time the vilification of MSG has been called out. Chef David Chang, from Netflix's Ugly Delicious, tweeted in 2011 that the taboo of MSG is "just a subtle form of racism". 

Television host and chef Anthony Bourdain was also a fan, and called MSG "good stuff".

"I don't react to it - nobody does. It's a lie," he said.

"You know what causes Chinese restaurant syndrome? Racism."