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MSG and the soup wars

November 3, 2008 |  5:46 pm


With all that's been going on -- elections, tanking economy, layoffs -- it's possible that some of you may have missed the riveting "Soup Wars." Yep -- as soup season comes in, the gloves are coming off.

You might say it started in September, when the Campbell Soup Co. decided the world should know that its Select Harvest soups don't contain MSG but Progresso soups do.

So Campbell's ran an ad in the New York Times that featured a can of Progresso soup with "MSG" as its headline and a can of Campbell's soup with "TLC" as its headline.

In TV ads, a blindfolded woman tastes Progresso soup and guesses, "Hydrolized vegetable protein. And MSG." Then she samples Campbell's soup and guesses, "Chicken! One hundred percent natural ... white meat." (Campbell to Progresso: "Pttthhh!")

General Mills, which makes Progresso, took umbrage with the ads and put out its own, noting that 95 of Campbell's soups still contain MSG and that quite a number of Progresso soups did not. It also announced in October that it was removing MSG from all 80 of its Progresso soups and challenged Campbell, in ads, to do the same with all its soups. (Progresso to Campbell: "Oh yeah? Take that!")

Campbell shot back with more ads noting that it had 124 soups without MSG. ("I know you are, but what am I?")

Now it seems the Glutamate Assn., which manufactures monosodium glutamate, has had just about enough and released a statement of its own. ("Go to your rooms.") In it, Brendan Naulty, president of the Glutamate Assn., says: "It is a disservice to consumers to imply that the inclusion of MSG in canned soup is a detriment, when in fact, the use of MSG in canned soups has long been recognized as a safe, effective way to provide consumers with exactly what they want -- a soup that tastes good."

-- Rosie Mestel

P.S. Here, culled from a past Booster Shots blog item on MSG, are a few links to articles on the issue of MSG and safety, should you be interested:

A New York Times article -- it goes into all kinds of MSG trivia and history, including periodic safety controversies and scientific reviews. (It notes that most scientific reviews have judged MSG to be safe.)

From the Food and Drug Administration, also citing various reports that have indicated that MSG is safe.

From Wikipedia, lots of MSG stuff and another page discussing rodent-obesity studies and safety investigations.

Photo credit: David McNew / Getty Images