Fast-Food Chains Load Up Chicken Sandwiches With MSG

Checkingfax, CC BY-SA 3.0

Jan 14, 2020

CBS News – McDonald’s is turning to an often-maligned ingredient in its years-long effort at creating a chicken sandwich capable of luring customers from Chick-fil-A and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

McDonald’s is now testing chicken sandwiches with monosodium glutamate, or MSG, at more than 230 of its restaurants in Texas and Tennessee.

The fried chicken sandwich is topped with butter and dill pickles and comes on a “buttery” potato roll similar to the Popeyes sandwich.

While some have argued that when it comes to chicken, the world’s biggest restaurant chain should stick to nuggets, McDonald’s franchise owners feel differently, and reportedly squawked about it last year.

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“A Chicken Sandwich at McDonald’s should be our top priority,” the National Owners Association board emailed fellow franchisees in July. “JFK called for a man on the moon, our call should be a category-leading chicken sandwich.”

A McDonald’s spokesperson reports positive customer feedback after the addition of MSG in chicken sandwiches in Texas and Tennessee:

“So far, our customers in Houston and Knoxville have had a positive response to the test of our Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Deluxe Crispy Chicken sandwich … ” Read more. 

Is MSG Really So Bad?

Feb 19, 2019

WebMD – Some nutrition info gets passed around so much that nobody bothers to think about whether it actually makes any sense—or whether it’s accurate.

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Case in point: Monosodium glutamate (MSG), popularly known as “that stuff in Chinese food that gives you a headache.”

But is that even true?

It’s important to know the backstory. MSG is a seasoning made from sodium and glutamate, an amino acid that’s found naturally in certain foods like tomatoes, soy sauce, and aged cheeses.

Glutamate was discovered as a flavor enhancer in 1908 by a Japanese professor, who pinpointed glutamate as the substance that gave his favorite seaweed broth its rich, savory taste.

Glutamate is unique because it hits the fabled “fifth taste” called umami (Japanese for “delicious”), a decidedly savory and meaty flavor. The professor filed for a patent to produce MSG, and it became widely used to season food.

But in 1968, a letter appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine from a doctor claiming he experienced heart palpitations and flushing after eating in Chinese restaurants. He chalked it up to MSG in the food, and the editors of the journal dubbed it “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”.

Anecdotal reports started swirling about MSG and the symptoms it supposedly triggered, from headaches and nausea to tightness in the chest. But scientific evidence was thin.

So in the 1990s, the FDA asked an independent scientific group to investigate.

The group concluded that MSG is safe, though they said some sensitive people might get short-term symptoms (like headache or drowsiness) if they consume 3 grams or more of MSG (a typical serving in food is less than .5 grams).

The FDA classifies MSG as “generally recognized as safe”, the same designation that ingredients like sugar and baking soda have.

They say the body metabolizes MSG the same way it does the natural glutamate found in food. Also of note: The International Headache Society no longer includes MSG on their list of headache triggers.

But there’s still a cloud of concern around it, and you’ll spot plenty of brands calling out “no MSG” on their labels. … Read more. 

Another view: How bad is MSG really? 

HealthLine  – Glutamic acid [MSG] functions as a neurotransmitter in your brain.

It is an excitatory neurotransmitter, meaning that it stimulates nerve cells in order to relay its signal.

Some people claim that MSG leads to excessive glutamate in the brain and excessive stimulation of nerve cells.

For this reason, MSG has been labeled an excitotoxin.

Fear of MSG dates as far back as 1969, when a study found that injecting large doses of MSG into newborn mice caused harmful neurological effects (4Trusted Source).

Since then, books like Russell Blaylock’s “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills” have kept this fear of MSG alive.

It’s true that increased glutamate activity in your brain can cause harm — and that large doses of MSG can raise blood levels of glutamate. In one study, a megadose of MSG increased blood levels by 556% (5Trusted Source).

However, dietary glutamate should have little to no effect on your brain, as it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier in large amounts (6Trusted Source).

Overall, there is no compelling evidence that MSG acts as an excitotoxin when consumed in normal amounts. Read more. 

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