Ajinomoto, the world’s largest producer of monosodium glutamate, is on a crusade to rehabilitate the image of MSG, long reviled as the source of so-called “Chinese restaurant syndrome.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Japanese ingredients giant is trying to convince consumers that, despite long-standing beliefs among many consumers, MSG does not cause headaches or any of the other myriad discomforts associated with it.
The strategy is to link MSG to umami, a distinct flavor that is rising in the consciousness of American consumers. The term umami was coined in 1908 by a Japanese food scientist to describe the taste of the country’s traditional seaweed broth; Ajinomoto, which means “the origin of flavor,” got its start by distilling this broth into MSG powder. Ajinomoto is spending $10 million on its pro-MSG campaign, to sponsor things like website articles and tastings of food before and after MSG is added.
If the comments on the Journal’s article are anything to go by, Ajinomoto has its work cut out. Six of the first seven were from readers claiming that they don’t care what anyone says, MSG makes them sick.