MSG is a common flavor enhancer that is widely used in the global food industry. Although MSG is thought to have an optimal safety profile, it has also been linked to high blood pressure at high levels. This is based on a cross-sectional study conducted by He at. Al (2011). Other diseases linked to MSG intoxication include Type II Diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. MSG is an etiologic agent with an incubation period of less than 1 hour.
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The most common symptoms of MSG food-borne illness include tightness in the chest, a burning sensation, dizziness, nausea, flushing, and headache. These symptoms last less than 1 day. Chinese foods have been identified as the key carrier for MSG intoxication (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). Since food-borne illnesses are increasingly linked to cases of mortality, morbidity and economic loss, there is a dire need to examine preventive measures to avoid an epidemic.
In the United States alone, food borne illnesses account for between 33 and 76 million cases annually. On the other hand, food-borne illnesses reportedly cause between 5 and 9 thousand deaths annually (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). So far, there have been scanty details on the prevalence, incidence, mortality, and morbidity rates of MSG-induced food-borne illness. Reporting of the incidence and prevalence of MSG food-borne illness varies from one region to another. Cases of underreporting are also high.
Less than 1 case of MSG-induced food-borne illness is reported annually for every 100 000 persons. The food-borne illness agent also leads to undesirable negative economic consequence in the form of lost wages, litigation, medical costs, investigations, and recall. Many studies have thus far been carried out with a view to evaluate the potential role of MSG in food hypersensitivity.
However, most of these studies have not succeeded in replicating the adverse effects reported by majority of the people as regards MSG ingestion. Towards this end, researchers have undertaken numerous research studies to measure blood pressure and heart rates of such individuals. However, these studies have failed to identify variations in the aforementioned parameters between individuals fed with a placebo and those fed with foods containing MSG (U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2012).
Many individuals who claim to be sensitive to MSG exhibit such symptoms as nausea and headache after consuming foods containing MSG. However, according to the research findings commissioned by the FDA it is not possible to systematically induce reactions from such people when fed with either a placebo or foods containing MSG (U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2012).
The most common symptoms reported included numbness, palpitations, headache, and drowsiness. These symptoms are common among sensitive persons who take MSG in excess of 3 grams.
Community prevention programs would go a long way in helping to prevent MSG-induced food-borne illnesses. Preventive and control measures of food borne illnesses are intended to prevent the occurrence of future outbreaks. In this case, it is important to ensure that prompt and appropriate health action is undertaken (Taylor, 2010). One way of doing this is by forming partnerships between relevant government stakeholders such as the US FDA and consumer welfare organizations.
Such a partnership will aid in the development of community-based educational campaigns aimed at creating awareness on the causes, symptoms and risk factors of MSG-induced food-borne illnesses, and how to prevent an outbreak.
During such education campaigns, food handlers should also be educated on the need to read labels and on the minimum tolerable levels of MSG in foods. However, such a campaign could be faced with the challenge of behavioral change, in that food handler may find it hard to start looking at food labels keenly, prior to purchase.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Guide to Confirming a Diagnosis in Food-borne disease. Web.
He, K., Du, S., Xun, P., Sharma, S., Wang, H., Zhai, F., & Popkin, B. (2011).
Consumption of monosodium glutamate in relation to incidence of overweight in Chinese adults: China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS). Am J Clin Nutr., 93 (2), 1328-1336.
Taylor, M. (2010). Food Safety Education Conference. Web.
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U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2012). Questions and Answers on Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). Web.