The safety evaluation of monosodium glutamate

J Nutr. 2000 Apr;130(4S Suppl):1049S-52S. doi: 10.1093/jn/130.4.1049S.


L-Glutamic acid and its ammonium, calcium, monosodium and potassium salts were evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) in 1988. The Committee noted that intestinal and hepatic metabolism results in elevation of levels in systemic circulation only after extremely high doses given by gavage (>30mg/kg body weight). Ingestion of monosodium glutamate (MSG) was not associated with elevated levels in maternal milk, and glutamate did not readily pass the placental barrier. Human infants metabolized glutamate similarly to adults. Conventional toxicity studies using dietary administration of MSG in several species did not reveal any specific toxic or carcinogenic effects nor were there any adverse outcomes in reproduction and teratology studies. Attention was paid to central nervous system lesions produced in several species after parenteral administration of MSG or as a consequence of very high doses by gavage. Comparative studies indicated that the neonatal mouse was most sensitive to neuronal injury; older animals and other species (including primates) were less so. Blood levels of glutamate associated with lesions of the hypothalamus in the neonatal mouse were not approached in humans even after bolus doses of 10 g MSG in drinking water. Because human studies failed to confirm an involvement of MSG in "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" or other idiosyncratic intolerance, the JECFA allocated an "acceptable daily intake (ADI) not specified" to glutamic acid and its salts. No additional risk to infants was indicated. The Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) of the European Commission reached a similar evaluation in 1991. The conclusions of a subsequent review by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) did not discount the existence of a sensitive subpopulation but otherwise concurred with the safety evaluation of JECFA and the SCF.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Food Additives / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Safety
  • Sodium Glutamate / adverse effects*
  • United Nations
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • World Health Organization


  • Food Additives
  • Sodium Glutamate