As the management of West African Seasoning Company Limited (WASCO), makers of Ajinomoto Umami food seasoning, rolls out the drums today to celebrate this year’s Umami Seasoning Day, food and nutrition experts have once again reiterated the safety of the product.
The Umami Seasoning Day is celebrated on July 25 every year to raise awareness about the importance of the Umami seasoning popularly known as Ajinomoto or Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in cooking and its safety for consumption.
The day is also aimed at educating the general public for better understanding and appreciation of Umami and its essential role in food which experts have said brings delicious flavour to global cuisines.
According to WASCO’s Managing Director, Mr. Niki Junichi, the safety of Ajinomoto has long been scientifically proven and approved by authorized agencies of the United Nations.
“An extensive body of research, which has been reviewed by scientists and governments around the world, including the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Medical Association, experts of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Health Organisation and the European Commission’s Scientific Committee for Food demonstrates that glutamate is safe” he said.
Junichi noted that based on its safety, Ajinomoto seasoning is consumed in over 130 countries, adding that the usage of MSG was to enhance taste and also increase deliciousness of food.
Ajinomoto, according to him, has been safely used as food ingredient since 1908 after it was discovered by a Japanese scientist, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda.
He assured that the company was committed to bringing out the natural taste in cooking through safe and cost-effective seasonings, urging Nigerians to dispel any myth or misconception about the seasoning product.
“Umami substance is present in most natural foods such as meat, seafood, vegetables, cheese and milk. Glutamate is also abundant in breast milk.
Umami seasoning enhances taste of dishes and is a universal taste. It is one of the five basic tastes along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Ajinomoto is simply made from sugarcane through the natural process of fermentation,” he explained.
While also providing more safety facts about Ajinomoto seasoning, WASCO’s Head of Marketing, Mr. Isah Hassan Shallangwa, reeled out health benefits consumers of the ingredient stand to derive from embracing the product.
“The benefits of the seasoning include enhancing and promoting the deliciousness of our meals, it is economical, it reduces salt intake and it is rich in glutamate, one of the free amino acids. Almost all seasoning contains MSG,” Shallangwa said.
Also backing the safety of the Japanese food seasoning are some Nigerian food professionals from the academia who said various scientific findings had proven that Ajinomoto is safe for consumption. Prof. Abiodun Sanni of the Department of Microbiology, University of Ibadan, who wants Nigerians to work with facts and not rumours, affirmed that glutamate has no health issues as purported in some quarters.
“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 metabolizes 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,” Sanni, a microbiology professor, said.
Asking consumers to always work with fact and evidence and to dispel misguided information and misconception about Ajinomoto, a lecturer in the Department of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, College of Applied Food Sciences and Tourism, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Dr. Helen Henry-Unaeze, said there is no food that is tasty without a glutamate.
“Ajinomoto umami seasoning enhances the taste of food. It brings out the flavour 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 said.
According to her, many studies have been carried out on the safety of MSG which confirmed it to be safe for human consumption. She pointed out 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.
“The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition commissioned an independent review of all scientific findings on MSG, which found it to be safe and has since been classified as Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
Also, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has since conducted a study on MSG and published its findings, which also found it to be safe,” she said.