Sodium glutamate

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Sodium glutamate and glutamates. Their use in foods should be drastically limited for consumer health needs, according to the European Food Safety Authority. (1)

EFSA’s substantial opinion definitively settles the debate on whether glutamate is dangerous. Clarifying once and for all that glutamate intake is safe only below a certain daily intake of 30 mg per kg of body mass of the individual. (2) Intakes above this threshold, however, are associated with migraines and headaches, elevated blood pressure and insulin levels.

Glutamic acid is an amino acid, produced by the human body and naturally occurring in foods such as tomatoes, soy sauce, and some cheeses. Glutamic acid and its salts (E 620-625), commonly referred to as glutamates, are food additives authorized in the European Union (EU).

Glutamic acid food additives (3) are generally used in bouillon cubes and some ready meals, as well as in sauces and seasonings, to enhance the flavor of foods with little effort and minimal cost. Their use is still permitted in Europe within the broad limit of 10 g per kg of food. But the European Commission is now urged to drastically reduce the conditions under which such additives are used, in light of Efsa’s scientific opinion.

Based on the available evidence, we are confident that the individual daily intake of glutamic acid and glutamates (defined in the EFSA opinion) protects the health of consumers because it is lower than the doses that have been associated with certain effects in humans such as headaches, increased blood pressure and insulin levels‘. This is according to Dr. Claude Lambré, who coordinated the research as part of EFSA’s scientific panel on food additives. (4)

EFSA’s scientific assessment considered the overall exposure to glutamates added to food, which to date has been found to be high in some European population groups, including children and adolescents. Exceeding both the suggested threshold and the levels associated with some adverse health effects.

‘Based on the results of our exposure assessment, we recommend examining the maximum levels of glutamic acid and glutamates added to food, particularly for sandwich baked goods, soups and broths, sauces, meats and meat products, seasonings and condiments AND dietary supplements’

(Dr. Claude Lambré, EFSA)

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) SEE https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4910

(2) ADI, Acceptable Daily Intake.

(3) Flavor enhancers E620-625:

E620 Glutamic Acid
E621 Monosodium glutamate
E622 Monoprostassium glutamate
E623 Calcium diglutamate
E624 Monoammonium Glutamate
E625 Magnesium Diglutamate
(4)‘Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food

 

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.