Monosodium glutamate 'allergy': menace or myth?

Clin Exp Allergy. 2009 May;39(5):640-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2009.03221.x. Epub 2009 Apr 6.


Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a salt form of a non-essential amino acid commonly used as a food additive for its unique flavour enhancing qualities. Since the first description of the 'Monosodium glutamate symptom complex', originally described in 1968 as the 'Chinese restaurant syndrome', a number of anecdotal reports and small clinical studies of variable quality have attributed a variety of symptoms to the dietary ingestion of MSG. Descriptions of MSG-induced asthma, urticaria, angio-oedema, and rhinitis have prompted some to suggest that MSG should be an aetiologic consideration in patients presenting with these conditions. This review prevents a critical review of the available literature related to the possible role of MSG in the so-called 'Chinese restaurant syndrome' and in eliciting asthmatic bronchospasm, urticaria, angio-oedema, and rhinitis. Despite concerns raised by early reports, decades of research have failed to demonstrate a clear and consistent relationship between MSG ingestion and the development of these conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Food Additives / adverse effects*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Sodium Glutamate / adverse effects
  • Sodium Glutamate / immunology*
  • Taste / immunology


  • Allergens
  • Food Additives
  • Sodium Glutamate