Then there’s the “No MSG” label. “MSG” is the abbreviation of the long-form name “monosodium glutamate,” it’s true identity. It’s used a lot in Japan as a flavor enhancer added to food products. People in Australia dislike MSG and lots of products in shops are labelled “No MSG”, including snack foods, seasonings, and retort pouch products. The dangers of MSG came into the spotlight some time ago with something called “Chinese restaurant syndrome” when people who had eaten food at Chinese restaurants containing large amounts of MSG complained of headache, nausea, numbness, and other symptoms, so recently there has been an increase even in Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants that don’t use MSG. Dishes with extremely simple seasoning have been the norm at non-Asian cafes and restaurants, so they are somewhat bland and you add salt yourself if you feel it is lacking. Lots of places have Himalayan salt or natural salt available, which helps. A while ago a vegetarian neighbor told me about a Chinese restaurant that serves tasty vegetarian food without MSG. They said to me that they try to eat healthy foods only and they also said something very curious: “When I eat something with MSG, I always have nightmares.” I sometimes have scary dreams, so I thought maybe I had eaten something with MSG in it that day. Apart from MSG, labelling also includes “No preservatives” and “No artificial colors or flavors.” You can also get unsalted tomato juice, ketchup, butter, and so on. You often see the label “Non-GMO” (non-genetically modified organism), which is common in Japan where there are so many soy products.
Another one is “BPA Free.” People in Japan might not be familiar with “BPA” and I too have never seen a product with this label in Japan. BPA is bisphenol A, a chemical substance used mainly in plastic products. Apparently, this chemical substance has an adverse effect on human health, so lots of BPA free PET bottle products, clear wrap, and food containers are available. Most of the food containers on shelves at large supermarkets are BPA free. These food containers look colorful and cute, they’re durable, and they’re free of BPA, so I think it would be good if containers like this were available in Japan too. If you go to an Australian supermarket, why not try looking for some “BPA Free” labels?
“Gluten Free, No MSG, No GMO” corn chips (left) and gluten-free wheat flour (right)
BPA-free plastic containers: They’re difficult to see, but there are small “BPA FREE” labels.