Wed, 06 Aug 2003

False alarm about MSG

In my opinion, the release from Public Interest Research and Advocacy Center (PIRAC) on the dangers of monosodium glutamate (MSG) as printed by The Jakarta Post on Aug. 1 and Aug. 2 is an exaggeration and a false alarm.

According to the release, the snacks that Sucofindo has examined contain 0.46 percent to 1.59 percent MSG per packet, of between 14 grams and 20 grams. Quantitatively, the MSG content in each packet ranges between 60mg and 240mg.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of MSG is 153mg per kilogram of body weight. This means that a child weighing 20kg or an adult weighing 50kg can safely consume 3g and 7.5g of MSG, respectively, every day throughout their lives. Clearly, the MSG content in the snacks reported by PIRAC is far below the ADI.

The ADI for MSG was announced in the 1970s, but was scrapped in 1987 by the Joint Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)-WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JEFCA). Likewise, the restriction imposed on babies under 12-weeks-old and pregnant women has been lifted.

Contrary to what PIRAC has said in its release, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never issued any warning against MSG. In fact, the USFDA has included MSG on its Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list.

In Indonesia, MSG consumption per capita per annum is below one gram a day, quite similar to the level recorded in the U.S.

In October 1998, an international symposium on glutamate was held in Bergamo, Italy. The proceedings of this conference can be read in the official publication of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 130, No. 45.

At this symposium, the pharmacology department of the School of Medicine of Gadjah Mada University presented the results of its research titled The administration to Indonesians of MSG in Indonesian Foods. The outcome of the symposium wiped out all doubts about the safety of MSG as a food additive.