Does Blue Cheese Have MSG? An Expert’s Guide

Are you a fan of blue cheese?

Do you ever wonder what gives it that delicious, savory flavor?

One ingredient that often comes to mind is monosodium glutamate, or MSG.

But does blue cheese actually contain this controversial flavor enhancer?

In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between blue cheese and MSG, and whether or not you should be concerned about consuming this popular cheese.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn all about the fascinating world of blue cheese and MSG.

Does Blue Cheese Have MSG?

Blue cheese is a type of cheese that is known for its distinct flavor and aroma. It is made by adding a specific type of mold to milk, which gives it its characteristic blue veins. But what about MSG? Does blue cheese contain this flavor enhancer?

The answer is yes and no. While blue cheese does not contain added MSG, it does contain naturally occurring glutamates. Glutamates are amino acids that are found in many foods, including blue cheese. When these glutamates are broken down during the aging process of the cheese, they can create a savory, umami flavor that is similar to the taste of MSG.

It’s important to note that not all types of blue cheese are created equal when it comes to their glutamate content. Some varieties, such as Roquefort and Gorgonzola, have higher levels of glutamates than others. However, the amount of glutamates in blue cheese is generally considered to be safe for consumption.

What Is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that is commonly used in food production. It is derived from L-glutamic acid, which is a naturally occurring amino acid that is necessary for the creation of proteins. MSG was first identified as a flavor enhancer by Japanese researchers in 1908 and has since become one of the most widely used additives in food production. It can be found in a number of processed products, from fast food to canned soups.

MSG works by stimulating taste receptors, which results in an umami taste that is characterized as savory and meaty. This popular additive has been deemed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA. While some experts argue that it can have potentially dangerous side effects, particularly when consumed on a long-term basis, there is a lack of supporting evidence for this claim.

Foods that naturally contain MSG, such as tomato products, protein isolates, and cheeses like blue cheese, are not required to list MSG as an ingredient. However, when MSG is added to foods as an ingredient, it must be labeled by its usual name of monosodium glutamate. In the European Union, MSG is classified as a food additive and may be listed by the E-number E621.

The Science Behind Blue Cheese Flavor

The distinct flavor of blue cheese can be attributed to the mold used in its production, specifically Penicillium roqueforti. This mold feeds on both proteins and fats in the cheese, contributing to the breakdown of fat called lipolysis. During this process, fatty acids are formed, which are then transformed into compounds called methyl ketones by the metabolism of the blue mold.

One such methyl ketone is 2-heptanone, which smells similar to blue cheese and contributes to its unique flavor. The breakdown of octanoic acid, a specific fatty acid formed during lipolysis, also produces other compounds such as heptan-2-one and nonan-2-one, which give blue cheese its piquant taste.

It’s important to note that while the breakdown of fats and production of methyl ketones contribute to the flavor of blue cheese, it’s not the only factor at play. Cheese flavor is a complex interplay of many chemicals and compounds, making it greater than the sum of its parts.

The Controversy Surrounding MSG

Despite the fact that MSG is a naturally occurring substance in many foods, it has been the subject of controversy for decades. The controversy surrounding MSG began in 1968 when a doctor wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” which claimed that MSG caused symptoms like numbness, headaches, and chest pain. This letter started an anti-MSG movement that quickly spread throughout the United States.

The anti-MSG movement was fueled by racist undertones and negative stereotypes about Chinese cuisine. Chinese restaurants were often seen as serving low-quality or dirty food, and MSG was blamed for any negative health effects that people experienced after eating at these restaurants. This led to a widespread belief that MSG was dangerous and unhealthy, despite the lack of scientific evidence to support these claims.

In reality, MSG is generally recognized as safe by regulatory bodies and scientific groups around the world. The World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization conducted a joint study on MSG and found no evidence to support the idea that it causes any negative health effects. The FDA also considers MSG to be safe for consumption.

However, some people still claim to experience symptoms like headaches or drowsiness after eating foods containing MSG. While there is no scientific evidence to support these claims, some people may be more sensitive to glutamates than others. It’s also possible that other factors, like the overall quality of the food or individual health issues, could be responsible for any negative symptoms that people experience after eating foods containing MSG.

Despite the controversy surrounding MSG, many chefs and food experts continue to use it as a flavor enhancer in their dishes. Some, like Chef Tim Ma of Lucky Danger in Washington D.C., even make a point to add it to every dish on their menu. While the debate over MSG may never be fully resolved, it’s clear that this naturally occurring substance is not inherently dangerous or unhealthy.

Health Concerns And Safety Of Consuming MSG

MSG has been a controversial ingredient for many years, with concerns about its safety and potential health risks. While it is generally recognized as safe by regulatory agencies such as the FDA and WHO, some studies have suggested that chronic exposure to MSG may lead to adverse effects such as cardiotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, neurotoxicity, low-grade inflammation, metabolic disarray, and premalignant alterations.

However, many of these studies have been criticized for their methodological flaws and excessive dosing that does not reflect levels normally consumed in food products. Clinical trials have mainly focused on the effects of MSG on food intake and energy expenditure, with little evidence to support claims of MSG hypersensitivity or links to increased pain sensitivity and atopic dermatitis.

Despite the controversy surrounding MSG, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that it is harmful to consume in moderation. The amount of naturally occurring glutamates in blue cheese is generally considered safe for consumption. However, if you are someone who experiences negative reactions to MSG or prefers to avoid it for personal reasons, it is important to read food labels carefully and choose products that do not contain added MSG.

Alternatives To Blue Cheese For Those Avoiding MSG

If you’re looking for alternatives to blue cheese that don’t contain MSG, there are several options available that can give your dishes a similar flavor with less intensity. Here are some substitutes to consider:

1. Feta Cheese: Feta cheese has a tangy and salty taste, making it an excellent substitute for blue cheese. It is also lower in glutamates than blue cheese, making it a great option for those trying to avoid MSG.

2. Goat Cheese: Goat cheese has a creamy texture and tangy flavor that can be a good replacement for blue cheese. It is also lower in glutamates than blue cheese, making it a safer option for those who are sensitive to MSG.

3. Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan cheese has a nutty and salty taste that can add depth to your dishes. It is also lower in glutamates than blue cheese, making it a good alternative for those avoiding MSG.

4. Herbs: Herbs like thyme, rosemary, and oregano can add a savory flavor to your dishes without the use of MSG. They are also rich in antioxidants and other beneficial compounds.

5. Lemon Juice: Lemon juice can add a tangy and acidic flavor to your dishes, which can help balance out the umami taste of blue cheese without adding MSG.