Monosodium Glutamate

What is Monosodium Glutamate?

Monosodium glutamate (chemical formula: C5H8NO4Na), also known as sodium glutamate and more commonly known as MSG, is a white crystalline powder that is very soluble in water. It is practically odourless and a sodium salt of naturally occurring L(+)-glutamic acid. MSG occurs naturally in several foods including tomatoes, cheeses and seaweeds to name a few. 

What is Monosodium Glutamate used for?

MSG is used as a flavour enhancer when added to savoury foods. It has long been associated with Chinese cooking, with the mild symptoms of consuming the ingredient labelled as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”, however MSG is also used to flavour; fried chicken, prepared salads, potato chips, dry soup mixes, canned meats, crackers and smoked meats to name a few.

MSG can be found in many processed foods, including fried chicken.
MSG can be found in many processed foods, including fried chicken.

Monosodium Glutamate Hazards

The routes of exposure for MSG include; inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of MSG isn’t thought to produce adverse health effects and irritation of the respiratory tract, however those with already compromised respiratory function (conditions such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis), may suffer further disability upon inhalation. Those with prior circulatory, nervous system or kidney damage should also take extra precautions when handling the chemical. 

While MSG has been classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as “generally recognised as safe”, large doses may cause nausea, weakness, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and slurred speech. More severe ingestions may produce visual disturbances, fever, confusion, muscle jerks, dilated pupils, seizures and coma. 

MSG is not thought to be a skin irritant, but systemic effects can result upon entry into the bloodstream. Inspect the skin for open cuts or wounds prior to handling the chemical. 

Eye exposure to the chemical may cause transient discomfort characterised by tearing, redness, temporary vision impairment and other eye damage/ulceration.

Monosodium Glutamate Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Have the patient blow their nose to clear their breathing passages of contaminants. Seek medical attention if irritation persists.

If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. If vomiting occurs, lean the patient forward or place on their left side to avoid aspiration. Observe the patient carefully and give water to rinse their mouth out as well as providing liquid slowly and as much as they can comfortably drink. Seek medical advice. 

If skin exposure occurs, flush the affected area with plenty of soap and running water. Seek medical attention in the event of irritation.

If the chemical is exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention if pain persists. 

Monosodium Glutamate Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical and there should always be adequate ventilation to remove or dilute any air contaminants (install local exhaust if necessary). Skin cleansing and barrier creams are also recommended for use in the event of skin exposure. 

The PPE recommended when handling MSG includes; safety glasses with side shields, chemical goggles, dust respirators, gloves, PVC aprons and safety boots.

For more information on how to safely handle MSG, refer to your SDS. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at for more information about our chemicals management solutions. 

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