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Tuesday, 21 January 2020

MSG In Chinese Food Isn’t Unhealthy — You’re Just Racist, Activists Say

It’s known as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” or CRS.
The term was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 1993 and is defined as “a group of symptoms (such as numbness of the neck, arms, and back with headache, dizziness, and palpitations) that is held to affect susceptible persons eating food and especially Chinese food heavily seasoned with monosodium glutamate.”
But just like everything else in the world these days, some people are outraged with the term — even going so far as to say it’s racist. 
Activists have launched a new campaign called “Redefine CRS,” CNN reported. “Headed by Japanese food and seasoning company Ajinomoto, the online campaign urges Merriam-Webster to change its entry to reflect the scientific consensus on MSG — and the impact of misinformation on the American public’s perception of Asian cuisine.”
This perception, which activists argue is outdated and racist, is so widespread that the Merriam-Webster dictionary has an entry for the term “Chinese restaurant syndrome” — a type of condition that allegedly affects people eating “Chinese food heavily seasoned with monosodium glutamate,” with symptoms like dizziness and palpitations.
“To this day, the myth around MSG is ingrained in America’s consciousness, with Asian food and culture still receiving unfair blame,” said the company in its campaign website. “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome isn’t just scientifically false — it’s xenophobic.”
Ajinomoto has released a video that features Asian American figures, along with restaurateurs and medical professionals, who decry the complaints against MSG.
“Calling it Chinese restaurant syndrome is really ignorant,” restaurateur Eddie Huang says in the video. 
The “Redefine CRS” campaign calls the Merriam-Webster entry “an outdated term that falsely blamed Chinese food containing MSG, or monosodium glutamate, for a group of symptoms.”
Merriam-Webster wrote on Wednesday that it will be “reviewing the term and revising accordingly.”
“We’re constantly in the process of updating as usage and attitudes evolve, so we’re grateful when readers can point us toward a definition that needs attention,” the dictionary company said.
CRS first made headlines in 1969 when a scientific paper identified MSG as “the cause of the Chinese restaurant syndrome.” The paper warned that it causes “burning sensations, facial pressure, and chest pain.” 
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012 called the food seasoning safe:
Over the years, FDA has received reports of symptoms such as headache and nausea after eating foods containing MSG. However, we were never able to confirm that the MSG caused the reported effects.
These adverse event reports helped trigger FDA to ask the independent scientific group Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to examine the safety of MSG in the 1990s. FASEB’s report concluded that MSG is safe. The FASEB report identified some short-term, transient, and generally mild symptoms, such as headache, numbness, flushing, tingling, palpitations, and drowsiness that may occur in some sensitive individuals who consume 3 grams or more of MSG without food. However, a typical serving of a food with added MSG contains less than 0.5 grams of MSG. Consuming more than 3 grams of MSG without food at one time is unlikely.
And the FDA said “although many people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions.”
MSG has been involved in racism before now. Anthony Bourdain, the late host of CNN’s award-winning series “Parts Unknown,” said in 2016, “I don’t react to it — nobody does. It’s a lie.”
“You know what causes Chinese restaurant syndrome?” Bourdain said. “Racism.”

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