Which US soup brands do not use MSG in their products?

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How is MSG made?

One evening over dinner in 1908, one of the Ajinomoto Group’s founders, biochemist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, asked his wife a question that would change the history of food: What gave her vegetable and tofu soup its delicious meaty flavor? Mrs. Ikeda pointed to the dried seaweed called kombu, or kelp, that she used to make her traditional Japanese dashi, or broth. Inspired by this revelation, Dr. Ikeda set to work. Evaporating and treating his wife’s kombu broth, he was able to extract a crystalline compound, which turned out to be glutamic acid. Tasting the crystals, he recognized a distinct savory flavor he dubbed umami, based on the Japanese word umai (delicious). Dr. Ikeda soon filed a patent to produce umami in an easy-to-use form: MSG (monosodium glutamate).

The following year, the Ajinomoto Group got its start as MSG was launched on the Japanese market. At first it was produced through the hydrolysis of gluten to extract wheat protein. Then in the 1930s there was a shift to extracting MSG from soy beans. In the 1960s production moved to the bacterial fermentation of sugar cane and similar crops in a process much like the way cheese, yogurt and wine are produced.

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MSG can be the key to reducing sodium content

Simple table salt, sodium chloride, is one of the biggest contributors to cardiovascular disease. Reducing average salt intake by 30% has been adopted as a target by the World Health Organization. The use of monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be the key to reducing sodium content without sacrificing taste.

Taste is a major driver of excess salt intake. Although MSG is mistakenly thought of as being high in sodium, it contains just one third the sodium of table salt (MSG contains approximately 12 percent sodium while table salt contains 39 percent sodium) It can enhance the perception of saltiness while preserving palatability. With the addition of MSG, sodium level in the food can be lowered by up to 40 percent while maintaining the flavor.

Research has also shown that umami-eliciting compounds like MSG can be used to reduce sodium 11% in chicken broth and 32.5% in spicy soups. Sodium reduction in butter, margarine and cheeses can also be achieved with MSG, and a similar approach could work in meat products. MSG could also be used in snack foods and condiments, for example helping reduce the sodium content of Brazilian garlic and salt spice seasonings by up to 50%.

MSG has been classed as safe by the US FDA and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. The use of MSG may help food scientists reduce sodium content without sacrificing taste, in addition to creating new, cost-effective, reduced-salt products and menus that will encourage consumers to make healthier choices.

The Ajinomoto Group initiatives to reduce salt intake with umami

Acknowledgements

The authors sincerely thank Roberta Re, Carmen Diaz-Toledo and Sonia Pombo of Leatherhead Food Research for their conduct of the study and valuable discussion for study design as well as for valuable comments on this manuscript. The authors are grateful to Kunio Torii for encouragement and support of this work.

T. M. interpreted the results and drafted the manuscript. T. I. designed the study, managed the execution of the experimental work and analysed the data. S. S. H. provided comments on the design, management of execution and interpretation of the results. E. K. provided comments on both the design and the manuscript.

There are no conflicts of interest to declare.

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