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Umami Seasoning Day: Experts, producers assure on safety of Ajinomoto

By Chukwuma Muanya
08 August 2022   |   3:44 am
Say seasoning produced through fermentation of plant-based ingredients, contains one-third percent less sodium than table salt

Say seasoning produced through fermentation of plant-based ingredients, contains one-third percent less sodium than table salt

Experts have assured on the safety and nutritious content of Ajinomoto, a Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).

The experts on the occasion of Umami Seasoning Day, on July 25, said various scientific findings had proven over and again that the seasoning is safe for consumption.

They raised awareness about the importance of the Umami seasoning in cooking and its safety for consumption as it brings delicious flavour to global cuisines.

A popular seasoning and flavour enhancer, Ajinomoto, is the purest form of umami, the fifth taste, altogether different from sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Ajinomoto is widely used to intensify and enhance umami flavours in sauces, broths, soups and many more foods.

It can also be used as a partial replacement for salt, containing just one-third sodium, and is classed as safe by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Originally associated mainly with Asian cuisines, MSG is now used around the world to bring out the delicious flavour of foods.

Today, the MSG produced by the Ajinomoto Group is produced through the fermentation of plant-based ingredients such as sugar cane, sugar beets, cassava or corn.

A professor of Enzyme and Food Biotechnology and Vice -Chancellor Federal University Dutse, Jigawa State, Prof. Abdulkarim Sabo Mohammed, affirming the safety of glutamate, said: “MSG is found naturally in some foods including tomatoes and cheese. Glutamate is essential for living bodies; it is a good energy source for the brain and helps boost good feeling by regulating impulse transmission in the nerves.

“Excessive sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. In fact, adding MSG can achieve 30 to 40 per cent salt reduction without changing the taste of the food. It is a healthy product that has been consumed by billions of people across the Globe and there is no scientific proof yet to directly associate MSG with any health issues as suggested.”

Mohammed said MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most common naturally occurring amino acids. He said glutamic acid is produced in abundance in human bodies and found in many foods, including meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, as well as tomatoes, corn and nuts. “When a protein containing glutamic acid is broken down, for example through fermentation, it becomes glutamate. Glutamate activates our taste receptors, eliciting the delicious savoury taste known as umami,” Mohammed said.

A professor of Microbiology at the Department of Microbiology, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof. Abiodun Sanni, urged Nigerians to debunk the myths and unscientific stories about MSG and to work with facts and science, explains that glutamate has no health issues as purported in some quarters.

Sanni added: “MSG produces a unique fifth taste known as Umami. We have a lot of glutamate in our local foods. Iru for instance is umami. When you take Iru, you take a lot of glutamate. So, people should debunk the rumours about glutamate. The human body metabolises both the natural and added glutamate in the same manner.”

“MSG does not cause allergy; it does not cause asthma— no link at all; it does not cause obesity; no adverse effect on the lung. Again, no study has shown any group of people not to take glutamate.”

Umami Seasoning Day is also aimed at educating people for a better understanding and appreciation of Umami and its essential role in food.

Managing Director of Ajinomoto Foods Nigeria Limited (AFN), an affiliate of Ajinomoto and makers of Ajinomoto Umami food seasoning, Mr. Noriyuki Ogushi, said: “More than 100 years ago, the Ajinomoto Group was founded on the discovery that glutamate is responsible for Umami taste. This discovery led to the launch of Ajinomoto the world’s first Umami seasoning, monosodium glutamate.”

He added: “Umami is the taste of the amino acid glutamate – one of the most prevalent amino acids in nature and naturally present in foods like tomatoes, seafoods, vegetables, cheese, and milk.

“We are actively developing products and seasonings, that utilise our salt-reduction technologies and the safety of Ajinomoto has long been scientifically proven and its safety approved by authorised agencies of the United Nations.”

Ogushi noted that based on its safety, the seasoning is consumed in over 130 countries, adding that the usage of MSG was to enhance taste and also increase the deliciousness of food.

WASCO’s Head of Marketing, Mr. Isa Hassan Shallangwa, also provided more safety facts about Ajinomoto Umami seasoning and gave reasons Nigerians should embrace it.

He said despite MSG’s 113-years history of safety validated by health organisations across the globe, lingering scepticism fueled by personal anecdotes and poorly conducted research in the 1970s has unfairly villainise the ingredient. For decades, the “No MSG” symbol that pervades restaurant windows, grocery shelves and food products has perpetuated the false perception of MSG as dangerous, and driven consumers away from enjoying an ingredient that adds savory umami taste to food.

“Ajinomoto MSG promotes significant sodium reduction and better enjoyment of our meals. Taste is a key factor in what people like to eat and the benefits of seasoning include enhancing and promoting the deliciousness of our meals. It is rich in glutamate one of the free amino acids. Almost all seasoning contains MSG,” Shallangwa said.

Asking consumers to always work with facts and evidence and to dispel misguided information and misconception about Ajinomoto, a lecturer in the Department of Food, Nutrition and Home Science, University of Port-Harcourt, Dr. Helen Henry-Unaeze, said there is no food that is tasty without glutamate.

“The seasoning enhances the taste of food. It brings out the flavour of a wide variety of savoury foods and makes them palatable. MSG can also be used to reduce the amount of sodium in foods—it contains one-third percent less sodium than table salt,” she said.

Henry-Unaeze pointed out that a lot of studies have been carried out on the safety of MSG, which confirmed it to be safe for human consumption.

According to her, MSG is not associated with any known health condition in all the research done so far both locally and internationally as claimed in some quarters.

“Far from being an ingredient to fear, for many people, MSG is a useful ingredient to consume less sodium, since the glutamate in MSG enhances savory flavors within foods. MSG provides an Umami flavour and depth to food,” she said.

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