Today Dear Hubby made a run to Whole Foods, with is relatively close to his work. He found that the tomato sauce that we buy (organic and in glass bottles) was out of stock, but talked to an employee to find out that we could special order these and they would hold them. He also picked up some cheese, pork (which I used to make a homemade version of a ‘sloppy' meat sandwich that I think I will call a Messy Pork Sandwich), apple juice, etc. He also tried to pick up a small treat. He realized, after he left the store, that he may have made a mistake in not reading the ingredients. What he picked up sounded safe enough since it was Whole Foods 365 Brand Sea Salt & Vinegar Kettle Cooked Potato Chips. You may have guessed where I am heading, but for those that haven't, this product contains a few ingredients that are on the list of "Names of Ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG)", namely "maltodextrin", "modified corn starch", and I suspect "malted barley extract" (the list includes malt extract and barley malt, and I have had a reaction to malted barley extract) . Truth in Labeling also recently posted about this product, saying that it contains Kombu seaweed in their sea salt, and that it may also cause reactions.
First, let me say that I love Whole Foods. They are a great source for us to find products that are whole and natural. Second, we both recognize that it is our responsibility to read the label. I am not vilifying the company, but I am using this as an opportunity to explain the difficulty of trying to avoid monosodium glutamate. Whole Foods says that they don't sell anything with MSG, but they only exclude the version that specifies ‘MSG' or monosodium glutamate. Unfortunately, that policy leaves the door wide open to over forty other ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid. My point is that while I love stores like Whole Foods, I still have to read the labels.
I honestly think that the ingredient shell game that the food industry plays is one reason that it takes so long for many people to realize that they have a sensitivity to this ingredient. A person may look at ingredient lists for foods that make them feel ill and not see the same name, so they may think their reaction is ‘all in their head'. I also believe that reactions are cumulative, meaning that several small amounts, over several days, can cause a big reaction. If there really is nothing wrong with MSG, why does it hide under so many aliases?
Would it be acceptable if instead of listing ‘peanuts', a manufacturer listed ‘ground nuts', ‘legume seeds', or ‘Arachis hypogaea seeds'? After all, peanuts are called ‘ground nuts' in some parts of the world, and they are the edible seed of a legume, Arachis hypogaea. Of course this would not be acceptable because many people have violent reactions to peanuts, and as such have to be protected. It would be wrong to hide this known allergen. How, then, is it acceptable to hide an ingredient that can cause a host of serious reactions in individuals. Some of the greater known MSG reactions include myriad intestinal issues, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, hives, mood swing, etc. Lately I have been reading information that says that these reactions are not true allergic reactions, but rather reactions to a toxin.
Some people don't believe that MSG sensitivity is a real thing. These people may say that this is all in my head. If that is true, why do I have reactions to items that I believe are safe, only to find out that there is a form that I did not recognize without reading the list? How is it that since I stopped eating MSG I have seen numerous health issues clear up that I did not recognize as being caused by ingesting it?
Regardless of your belief, or disbelief, of the toxicity of monosodium glutamate, there is a more basic issue at the heart of this debate. Don't I, as an individual, have the right to choose to eat, or not eat, a particular additive? It would seem to me that my most basic and primal right is to choose what I take in to nourish my body. It would also seem to me that attempting to circumvent the choice of so many individuals (by hiding this ingredient under other names and by falsely labeling foods as containing ‘no msg') is a blatant violation of the trust that we should have with our food providers. It is time to take back our plates. At times we may feel powerless, but never forget that the consumer gets a vote every time he or she spends a dollar. Vote wisely, keep well.