Ingested chemicals, including aspirin and sulfites, are becoming increasingly recognized as provokers of acute severe asthma. In order to investigate the asthma-provoking potential of the widely used flavor enhancer, monosodium L-glutamate (MSG), we challenged 32 subjects with asthma, a number of whom gave histories of severe asthma after Chinese restaurant meals or similarly spiced meals. The subjects received an additive-free diet for 5 days before challenge and were challenged in hospital, after an overnight fast, with 500 mg capsules of MSG. They were challenged in a single-blind, placebo-controlled fashion with increasing doses of MSG from 0.5 gm to 5.0 gm. Thirteen subjects reacted. Seven subjects (group 1) developed asthma and symptoms of the Chinese restaurant syndrome 1 to 2 hours after ingestion of MSG. Six subjects (group 2) did not develop symptoms of Chinese restaurant syndrome, and their asthma developed 6 to 12 hours after ingestion of MSG. These challenge studies confirm that MSG can provoke asthma. The reaction to MSG is dose dependent and may be delayed up to 12 hours, making recognition difficult for both patient and physician.