The USDA on Monday announced a voluntary recall of more than a million and a half pounds of Bob Evans Maple Links and Maple Patties because the labels failed to list monosodium glutamate -- MSG -- as an ingredient.
Columbus, Ohio-based BEF Foods, which produces the products, discovered the problem during an audit of its labeling. The company had removed MSG from the label when it reformulated its products and discontinued the use of a spice blend that contained MSG. However, it became apparent that individual establishments were still using the blend. In total, 1,768,600 pounds of meat have been recalled.
MSG is a controversial ingredient that been the subject of considerable backlash in recent decades. The common flavor enhancer, often used in canned foods and historically associated with Chinese restaurants, has been claimed to cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations and other symptoms in some consumers. The Mayo Clinic stresses, however, that "researchers have found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and these symptoms."
A 2009 study in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine found that those headaches attributed MSG ingestion may be related to its detrimental effect on brain neurons:
Although the brain does not register pain because of the lack of nociceptors, the increase of intracranial pressure due to cell swelling is well known to cause headaches. There are some possible ways, e.g. taking Vitamin C or pre-exposure to a low dose of MSG, that may either prevent or reduce the side effects of MSG.
Despite lingering concerns, a 2008 New York Times article stressed that most studies confirm that MSG, in normal concentrations, has no ill effect on the majority of consumers.
To date, the USDA and Bob Evans have not received any reports of negative reactions linked to the consumption of these products.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that the FDA announced the recall, when it was the USDA.