Supermarket packaged foods: Do you know what’s really in them?

Recently I was heading home from work, and my housemate asked me to pick up some Oyster sauce on my way. I hopped off the tram and wandered into Woolworths, headed for the condiments aisle.

I was presented with 4 options of Oyster sauce on the shelf to choose between. I’ve gotten into the habit of reading ingredient labels of any packaged foods prior to purchasing them – I don’t know about you, but I like to make the best decision possible where I can for what I put in my body.

I picked up each Oyster sauce bottle and checked the ingredients, thinking obviously the lowest sodium and sugar option and minimal/no preservatives would be the best choice. Then my eyes bulged…’Flavour Enhancer 621′ (more commonly known as Monosodium Glutamate or MSG) was an ingredient in 3 out of the 4 sauces on the shelf.

Although the Food Standards Australia New Zealand claim in limited use there is no convincing evidence, many independent studies have determined strong links between intake of MSG and a range of side effects, ranging from obesity and headaches to damage to the nerve cells in the brain, linking to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

In America, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that ‘studies have shown that the body uses glutamate as a nerve impulse transmitter in the brain, and abnormal function of glutamate receptors has been linked to certain neurological diseases. Injections of glutamate in labratory animals have resulted in damage to nerve cells in the brain.’

Some food manufacturers have removed MSG from their products over the years given the hype surrounding it, however others have just become more cunning with labelling MSG on their products so as you are none the wiser. There are over 40 labelled ingredients that contain glutamic acid, so it’s becoming even harder to cut this nasty chemical out of our diet knowingly.

Most processed foods contain MSG or one of it’s components as food flavourings. Therefore, choosing processed products which are labelled as free from flavourings, colourings or preservatives are the way to go where you can. Or better still, sticking to a fresh whole foods diet will ensure you can avoid this toxin altogether.

The rules I try to stick by when buying processed foods:

  • If you don’t know what a listed ingredient is
  • If it contains numbers
  • If you cannot pronounce it


Also, keeping an eye out for added salt and sugar (or sweeteners) will also keep you out of trouble 🙂 It’s all about empowering you to make better decisions for yours and your families health.