Major Changes To MSG And Antibiotics Will Affect Your Food

Sodium glutamate (umami flavor), molecular model
For years, consumers have been taught that monosodium glutamate, or “MSG”, is horrible for your body… yet scientists have never completely agreed on it being anything but “generally recognized as safe.” Proponents of the ingredient constantly point out that it’s an effective delivery system of the “fifth taste”, umami. Umami ranks with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, and was proposed in 1908 and defined in 1985. Monosodium glutamate is found in many Asian foods, which contributes to their “punch”, CBCNews reports. It’s the same reason, by their logic, that Doritos are delicious; it’s not the cheese flavoring or the crunch of the chip, but the MSG present in it.

CBCNews has been finding that many restaurants are more receptive and open about using MSG in their dishes in recent years; while many of the chefs will allow, or at least defend, the use of the synthetic seasoning, they’d rather pull the flavor out from ingredients, as monosodium glutamate is natural in tomatoes, cashews, fish, and even some cheeses.

On the other hand, while MSG is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration has turned their focus on the use of antibiotics used in the production of meat. Huffington Post reports that

Many cattle, hog and poultry producers give their animals antibiotics regularly to ensure that the animals are healthy and to facilitate the production process. Now, the agency has announced that it will ask pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily stop labeling drugs important for treating human infection as acceptable for those uses in animal production. If the companies sign on, use of those antibiotics to promote growth in animals would be illegal and prescriptions would be required to use the drugs for animal illnesses.

Exposure to antibiotic-treated meat weakens the use of antibiotics in humans, with the FDA estimating that 23,000 people a year are dying from drug-resistant infections. While voluntary, they are asking for this to be completed within three years. If they were to fully regulate and ban the use of antibiotics, it would be years of paperwork and regulations to deduce. As it stands, they’re effectively just asking meat producers to ask for a prescription and only give antibiotics to animals that truly need it, instead of widespread across the board.

How do these changing trends in the mindset of what is acceptable and what is not for the everyday consumer affect how you run your restaurant? With many locations allowing, and even encouraging, the use of monosodium glutamate, you might want to look at trying the ingredient in your dishes; if anything, give it a shot and let your customers know about the umami flavor and where it comes from.

With regards to the FDA’s move to limit antibiotics in meat, you may want to check with your distributor to see if this affects you. They may not limit antibiotics, might not have ever used them, or may even be complying with the request. You may see a price increase on the cost due to this change, so make sure you are ready for any changes you might have to make to your ordering.