Tuesday, 13 July 2010

On Manufactured Seasoning Gunge aka MSG

This was the meal provided by Aerolines when we travelled to Singapore, recently.

Within half an hour of eating that seemingly attractive meal, we both developed a headache and nausea. We knew the reason why. The unnaturally 'nice' taste about that meal was because of MSG.

We asked the Steward if there was MSG in the food, but he looked puzzled. When we said 'aji-no-moto' he beamed a silly smile and responded with "But nice lor!" with an inflection on the word 'nice' as if to say , "What are you grumbling for?".

That disgraceful statement encapsulates what seem to be Malaysians' attitude to MSG, and their ignorance of its side effects - what some researchers describe as slow poisoning. Just trawl through the internet and you can get a vast range of information on the harm that MSG can inflict on your health, both short term and long term. Asthmatics and diabetics, in particular, have been advised to be extra-vigilant.

I'm no scare-monger, but I have seen enough of MSG's unpleasant - and at times alarming - aftermath. It is claimed that MSG in moderation is harmless. But how do you measure 'moderate" when this chemical is so widespread in our food chain - from processed and packaged food, including baby food, to the meals we consume at roadside food stalls, food courts, restaurants and hotels? Even our favourite pisang goreng (banana fritters) are not spared! Do read the ingredients on the snacks that our children devour - they look like a chemical formula for toilet cleansers!

If we think we can avoid MSG by keeping away from local food-stalls and turn instead to fast-food chains we are in for a surprise. I do not want to be sued by these Big Boys, but as I've said before, do your own reading and research.

Although it is mandatory for food manufacturers to label their products, the absence of the letters MSG does not give you the all-clear. MSG slips in - in words like 'natural flavour'. Other 'hidden names' for MSG include calcium caseinate, hydrolyzed plant protein, yeast extract, yeast food or nutrient, glutamic acid and sodium caseinate. There are innumerable websites that write about how food made with products like malt extract, modified food starch, rice syrup, natural beef and chicken seasonings, maltodextrin, soy sauce extract and loads more - also contain MSG.

In a country with such a rich culinary heritage as Malaysia's, food does not require a taste enhancer like MSG. I recalled how my mother got 'conned' into using what was then Ve-Tsin and Aji-no-Moto. We persuaded her that her cooking tasted just as delicious without that white powder. She went back to using prawns, dried or fresh to augment the flavour of her laksa and mee rebus. Rendang and sambal blacan and curry can stand on their own without such additives.

But today, many chefs from the electronic and print media happily drench their recipes with bahan perasa (seasoning), aka monosodium glutamate.

Perhaps I consider myself fortunate as my body sets off an alarm whenever I get an overdose of MSG. Just because one does not suffer a negative side-effect, it does not indicate that this food-enhancer is benign. Our food is saturated with this additive and too much of it, like excessive salt and sugar, are detrimental to our health.

All the more we have to scrutinize and be selective about what we feed our young as well as ourselves. I am not one for banning this and that. Malaysians are sufficiently mature (?!) to decide on what they consider good enough for their palate and their health. However, when we eat out, we should be given a choice on what is added to our food. I do not want MSG at all and I know I'm not alone in that request. For those who cannot enjoy their meals without MSG, place a container of the stuff on their table and they can then spray their food with as much as they like.

Right now, eating out at the food stalls and other eating places is not a pleasure any more. It has turned into a health hazard.

What was once described as "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" can now be suitably changed to "Malaysian Makan Syndrome" - all because of Manufactured Seasoning Gunge.


BB said...

MSG is very often listed in ingredients as E621. That is the most common "hidden" name in NZ

anak si-hamid said...

Thanks BB,
I have a list which gives European numbers for glutamate-containing additives. They are 620, also Kiwi 621, 622-627, 631 and 635.


ph said...

Wah with all the numbers you had listed down - boleh beli 4D, just add a zero in the front or back.

Ladies, are you listening ????

Wan Sharif said...

You are better off than me since your spouse also could not take MSG.. whereas my household have MSG on practically every dish..
tawakkal aje lah.. saya belum sampai sakit kalau termakan MSG thingy (dah hari hari dok telan benda Allah tu!).
Dah berbuih mulut saya melarang..
dan berbuih juga mulut depa menjawab..
"lantak lah belalang!!!"

anak si-hamid said...

Oh dear, oh dear, Wan Sharif,

I suppose if you and the family do not suffer any nasty side-effects ....?

Or maybe you've developed an immunity?

Sabar - but do balance that diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables - and sambal blacan tempoyak (??) which I am making for tomorrow's dinner!
Tawakkal sahaja lah.

anak si-hamid said...

You should be saying :"Ladies, haven't we all learned our lesson?"

A subversive agent like you should be sent to Boot Camp.

imsunnysideup said...

Thanks for the write up. I have been a serious sufferer of this POISON THREE times this year. The last one...a few weeks ago , forced me to take medical leave for a week.

It doesn't matter what food...capati, tandoori, nasi lemak, soups, even sambal.... thy've all been contaminated !

TThis is the Malaysian 'culinary culture' of which has been and ....sigh...continue to be , our hawkers and hotels characteristics for our taste buds....

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you sunnysideup,

I can see MSG is truly poison for you. But such is human nature - they worry about all manner of overt filth around them, but they refuse to recognise the rubbish and toxin that go into their food - reacting like the ostrich with its head in the sand.

BB said...

Same family not exactly the same thing. Not sure how much difference this makes to having a reaction.
620 L-glutamic acid

621 Monosodium L-glutamate or MSG

622 Monopotassium L-glutamate

623 Calcium glutamate

624 Monoammonium L-glutamate

625 Magnesium glutamate

627 Disodium 5’ -guanylate

631 Disodium 5’-inosinate

635 Disodium 5’-ribonucleotides

Raden Rohaya Lopez said...

Boy, am I glad I dont use them in my cooking Thank you for the info. might buy lotto with all the numbers as PH suggested. 6,20,31,35
27 and 22

ph said...

Roy, macam mana lu dapat those numbers ?

i have to consult the Canary and the Gang on this..

Nowhere Man said...

Yes, MSG's the final ingredient for the perfect poison...
Perhaps, before we focused ourselves on that final portion, we should ponder on....

The vegetables, that we have everyday..? Are they really pesticides free and not laden with toxic chemicals..?
The meat that we have..are they too freed, from chemically induced chemicals and whats not to make them fat and 'juicy'...?
The air that we breathe..? Free from toxic fumes? Our drinking water...?

Why were we so skinny back then and yet so healthy and carefree..?

Answer's simple but can we get to it or rather....do we want it..?

(Too much rantings from a man who have seen enough and had it with this misery...)

Sorry, Miss Hamid and I really miss you to bits !

anak si-hamid said...

Dear BB,
Thank you for the detailed information.

Hello Roy,
Thank you. This means you can cook us a grand Aussie dinner next week.
Don't tell maknyonya about numbers - remember she failed in her mathematics at JSS.

You have to repent, my child.

anak si-hamid said...

Nowhere Man,
Where are you and How are you?

Don't despair - there's " a rainbow above you - where there used to be rain," (re: Diana Washington's 'What a Difference a Day Makes" ).

See you soon?

Awang Goneng said...

Dear ASH,

Oh Mummy, it's umami. Used to be called Ve Tsin, then the enduring Ajinomoto. Now it's trying to sneak in as Taste No5. I kid you not, high powered chefs are now putting a dash of it on their platter - Taste No5 - including our dear Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck (don't you go spoonering out that name now).

I always get suspicious when I get very thirsty after a meal. Sure sign of the monosodium at work. It's a neurotoxin, they say, so another dose it and your brain gets frazzled.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you AG,
I can see you have not consumed too much of that poison.

Your brain's still in good nick - that is, as wacky as ever.

How's life in an England that lost to the Germans by 4-1?

Raden Rohaya Lopez said...

What would you like? Nasi Rawan with paru, tempeh n tahu goreng. N sambal blachan with timun. Or ikan masak terutup or sambal goreng? But wait I think I just cook for you and uncle Steak and Mash, hehehe

anak si-hamid said...

You are NOT going to cook because you are all suppposed to revive the art of 'melepak-ing" for your Reunion and talk of past good times and future ones.

But my word, the menu sounds yummy.
See you next week me duck