I keep my eyes peeled to learn new things about my sensitivity to MSG.
I keep my eyes peeled (whoa! a food joke) for learning new things about my sensitivity to MSG. Even very small amounts of this nasty stuff can set off my symptoms, which I will refrain from describing. "Natural Flavors" and "Natural Flavoring" sometimes will produce the same symptoms, so I try to avoid those, too. It is difficult to find information on these food additives, as labeling allows companies to keep these ingredients a secret.
There are some products that avoid using natural flavors, mostly found in healthier food stores. Amy's Soups, several Spectrum products, like their Canola Mayonnaise, and other products seem to be able to manufacture very tasty food, without poisoning their customers. Some companies, like Del Monte, will produce the same products, like peaches, in a can and in plastic containers. One will have natural flavoring and the other won't...go figure. I believe that many people are not aware of the effect of food additives on their health, and probably blame symptoms on lots of other things. I used to do that, too; however, a 2 year adventure with my doctor led us to the accidental discovery of my MSG sensitivity.
Other than a mention in a book on MSG (In Bad Taste, by George R. Schwartz and Kathleen A. Schwartz), written in the 80's, these flavor chemicals are still rather mysterious. In this book, Schwartz, a physician, repeatedly referred to natural flavors, as being synonymous with hydrolized vegetable protein (HVP), which I believe to be questionable. By the way, HVP contains MSG.
Fortunately, I have a pretty good list of additives to avoid, but I learn new things all the time, like products that say "NO MSG," and instead use other ingredients that contain MSG, like Autolyzed Yeast. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your article: How natural is “natural flavoring?”. Every piece of information is a good thing to shed light on food mysteries. Perhaps some day, we will have a better idea about what we eat in the name of profit.