Top health and academic experts, including Nigeria’s leading nutritionists, have again reiterated the safety of Ajinomoto as a food seasoning, as the product marks this year’s Umami Seasoning Day..

Some food experts, who back the safety of the Japanese food seasoning, said various scientific findings had proven that AJI-NO-MOTO® MSG is safe.

The Umami Seasoning Day is celebrated on July 25, yearly to raise awareness about the importance of the Umami seasoning, popularly known as AJI-NO-MOTO® or Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in cooking, and its safety for consumption as it brings delicious flavour to global cuisines.

The day is also aimed at educating people for better understanding and appreciation of Umami and its essential role in food.

Also, the management of Ajinomoto Foods Nigeria Limited (AFN), an affiliate of a global food giant, has allayed fears about the safety of its seasoning product.

According to the Managing Director, Ajinomoto Foods Nigeria Limited, Mr. Noriyuki Ogushi, based on its safety, Ajinomoto Umami seasoning is consumed in over 130 countries, adding that the use of MSG is to enhance taste and also increase deliciousness of foods.

“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 (MSG).

“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, sea foods, 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.”

A Professor of Enzyme and Food Biotechnology, Abdulkarim Sabo Mohammed, the Vice-Chancellor Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, said: “MSG is found in some foods, including tomatoes and cheese. Glutamate is essential for living bodies; it is a good energy source of 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, 30 to 40 per cent salt reduction can be achieved by adding MSG 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,” he asserted.

Prof Abiodun Sanni of the Department of Microbiology, University of Ibadan, who urges 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, a Professor of Microbiology, noted: “MSG produces a unique and 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 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,” he added.

Despite over 113-year-old history of MSG safety validated by health organisations across the globe, lingering scepticisms fuelled by personal anecdotes and poorly conducted research in the 1970s, have unfairly villainised 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, thus driving consumers away from enjoying an ingredient that adds savoury Umami taste to food.

While also providing more safety facts about Ajinomoto Umami seasoning, Head of Marketing of Ajinomoto Foods Nigeria Limited, Mr. Isah Hassan Shallangwa, gave reasons Nigerians should embrace it in their cooking.

“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 the 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 work with facts and to dispel misconceptions, Dr Helen Henry-Unaeze of the Department of Food, Nutrition and Home Science, University of Port-Harcourt, said there is no food that is tasty without a glutamate.

According to her, studies have been carried out on the safety of MSG which confirmed it to be safe for human consumption, adding that MSG is not associated with any known health condition in all the researches 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. Ajinomoto enhances the taste of food. It brings out the flavor of a wide variety of savory foods and makes them palatable. MSG can also be used to reduce the amount of sodium in foods—it contains 1/3 per cent less sodium than table salt,” she added.