The Many Names for MSG

Yesterday, I talked about MSG: what it is, what types of foods it’s found in, and what it does inside the body. It’s something we want to keep out of our diet as much as possible, but in order to do that we need to know what to look for on food labels.

Some labels will shamelessly say “monosodium glutamate”. Fine – those ones are easy to pick out. You’ll find this on things like Doritos, Cheetos, and many soy sauces. However, MSG can be very slightly chemically altered, which then allows food manufacturers to call it something else on the label. And these forms of MSG still contain glutamic acid and carry the same health risks, so we need to look out for them.

Remember, MSG affects us all in different ways – some may react immediately to it and for others, it may take years of MSG ingestion before they start noticing symptoms. People especially sensitive to MSG include children with autism; people with allergies; those with an unhealthy liver; someone with a CoQ10 deficiency; people who suffer from epilepsy, fibromyalgia, hypoglycemia, or Parkinson’s disease; someone with a magnesium deficiency or a B-vitamin deficiency; and people with Type I diabetes.

Alternative names for MSG:

Autolyzed plant protein

Calcium caseinate



Glutamic acid

Hydrolyzed plant protein

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein

Monopotassium glutamate

Sodium caseinate

Textured protein

Yeast extract

Vegetable protein extract

Some alternative names substances that contain varying amounts of MSG are listed below. These may be okay in small amounts depending on how sensitive one is, but often a food item contains three or more of these ingredients, which is something to watch for.

Barley malt


Brown rice syrup

Citric acid

Malt extract or flavoring

Modified food starch

Natural flavors or flavorings (this one is very common)

Natural meat flavorings (beef, pork, etc.)

Natural seasonings

Rice syrup

Soy extract or sauce

Soy protein isolate


Some of these ingredients are fairly common, which is disappointing. Yet another reason to focus on fresh, whole foods! Just read labels carefully, though, and if you or one of your kids has some type of strange reaction after eating something, be aware that it could be from the MSG. To see a more complete list of foods containing MSG, go here.

What about soy sauce?

One PWN reader e-mailed me yesterday to ask if Kikkoman Soy Sauce contains MSG. The answer is yes, unfortunately. Soy sauce is one of the biggest offenders! We use Ohsawa organic Nama Shoyu at our house. It’s an unpasteurized soy sauce, and it’s only ingredients are organically grown whole soybeans, mountain spring water, organically grown whole wheat, and sea salt. Pretty safe, and it tastes just as good as regular soy sauce to me! You can find this product at most natural food stores. We often bring sushi or Japanese food home and eat it with this soy sauce, to avoid having to use the restaurant types that typically are high in MSG.


  1. Ann, thank you so much for posting these articles about MSG. I actually sent it to a friend who has a child with autism and epilepsy with the hope that she can better identify MSG on food labels.
    This is extremely useful information and great for everyone to know!

  2. Kikkoman soy sauce contains: soybeans, wheat, salt and water - pretty much the same as the ingredients in the brand you advertise. I understand that the fermentation process creates free-glutamic acid, but in that case, how do the 2 brands differ?

    1. I agree. I don't see any MSG on the Kikkoman Soy sauce label

    2. Many foods that contain MSG do not list them on the label because the MSG was not added as an ingredient; rather, it either is created naturally during a fermentation process (as is the case with the soy sauce), or is listed on the label under a name other than MSG (See the "alternate names" list above, as well as other names you can find online).

  3. Hi, I'm curious to know the answer to the comment posted by Anonymous above.

    Our Kikkoman soy sauce does not list MSG as an ingredient either. We eat a fair amount of sushi in our house, so I would really like to know if Kikkoman does have MSG or not?

    Thanks for a very informed post!

  4. Referring to the two posts above. I am currently doing research over Kikkoman and MSG. I have been doing this for sometime now and I would like to just say. Yes it does contain MSG. Sorry. But they do not label it as such but a "secret ingredient" or a "Natural Flavor". As to not shoot down their production or have a decrease in sales. MSG awareness is an ever spreading event and many big corporations are not wanting to lose their business because of it so are trying to cover it up. Different names, different ways to put it in, etc. As for the two brands differing. The one mentioned does not go through fermentation thus does not bring about free glutamic acid which can have a chemical process bringing about MSG. Fermentation is in itself can produce the harmful flavoring.

  5. What rubbish: MSG stands for Mono-Sodium Glutamate which as a chemical compound, so the list of 'alternative names' is wrong - all the items in this list are substances of different nature, purpose, chemical properties or structure. Do some googling before you post, will you?

    1. you need to do your research - read truth in labeling, msg myths, Dr. Russell Blaylock, "Excitotoxins the Taste that Kills - msg is guilty. Naturally fermented foods create it as well but are actually healthy for most people. It is the manufactured msg that is toxic. And it is hidden in many, many foods. See Jon Erb's 2006 presentation to the WHO.

  6. The above poster should really do some research before vomiting text about a topic he/she obviously knows nothing about. For the benefit of the others, here is an informative presentation that was made to the WHO (World Health Organization) pertaining to the effects of MSG on the broad public... http://healthwyze.org/archive/msg_report.pdf