What to avoid at Wendy's Fast Food Restaurants, if you are allergic to MSG or processed free glutamic acid
by N J Howell
what are excitotoxins?
Note: Even if a company reveals products that contain monosodium glutamate, they may not necessarily reveal if any products contain free form glutamic acid.
Wendy's has a rather annoying nutritional guide, in that you have to click on each individual food item, in turn, and then still search for what's actually in it. In general, as far as I could tell, they abide by the FDA requirements for disclosing allergens, stating that there are only 8 specific allergens the FDA requires disclosure on, which are soybeans, milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and crustacean shellfish. What I learned in viewing one of their product pages is that, even though soybeans are one of the 8 allergens food establishments must disclose, foods cooked in soybean oil are exempt from disclosure.
Unfortunately, as is the case with all other restaurants I've checked, there is no disclosure whatsoever on which foods may contain processed glutamic acid. You should suspect any of the following, which often contain enough processed glutamic acid to cause an msg-related reaction: detrose, rice syrup, anything with "lyzed" on the end of it, corn starch or corn syrup, brown rice syrup, reduced milk fat, milk powder, anything labeled "vitamin-enriched", etc. This is ONLY a partial list of suspect ingredients which may contain hidden msg or processed glutamic acid. I'm only listing these to show you just how prevalent this issue is and how many ways msg is being hidden in food labeling,
Monosodium Glutamate, or ingredients which may contain hidden msg, in Wendy's Fresh Food, per partial review of Wendy's nutritional guide as of 5/20/2012 Unlike some of the other fast food and sit down restaurants I've checked, Wendy's ingredient list does not list monosodium glutamate by name, which made me initially hopeful that there was less of it in their menu items than other fast food establishments. However, the absense of msg in the ingredient list, by name, does not mean an absense of msg though and I do see "natural flavors" on a lot of their ingredient lists. The term "natural flavors" often means hidden msg.
Fresh doesn't equal healthy: In reviewing about a dozen food items, it is apparent to me that Wendy's fast food (for adults at least, and in general) may be healthier than other fast food restaurants out there. That doesn't mean I'd vote for them. That's because I spotted several ingredients aside from msg that I wouldn't want to consume, including high fructose corn syrup, propylene glycol, modified cheddar cheese (hidden msg quite likely), sodium nitrate and soybean oil.
Sadly, my favorite item on the menu almost certainly has hidden msg, and that's Wendy's Chili. Ingredients include autolyzed yeast extract, disodium inosinate & disodium guanylate. Those last two ingredients function as msg boosters and autolyzed anything usually has msg.
Wendy's must use highly refined soybean oil to cook with, since they mention on one page that you should check with your doctor if you've been told to avoid highly refined soybean oil. In other words, they use it but are not required to disclose on every product, by FDA.
Wendy's Frosty shakes have carrageenan, another ingredient I strive to avoid as well as Sorbitan Monostearate, a sorbitol derivative.
Where Wendy's starts to REALLY piss me off: Ok, so I'm searching thru the categories and thinking ... Wendy's does seem to have less harmful ingredients than some fast food places. Then, I go to the Wendy's Kid's meals ... OMG. I see these ingredients I'd not feed anyone, all as part of the Wendy's Kids Meal of Chicken Nuggets with dipping sauce: Guar Gum, Modified Food Starch, Whey Protein Concentrate, Natural Flavors, Artificial Flavors, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and Dimethylpolysiloxane ... The first five ingredients are often sources of hidden msg, HFCS is not healthy for anyone and particularly not for children, hydrogenated oils ... REALLY? and that last one, Dimethylpolysiloxane, is basically silicone.
Health Care Disclaimer: Monosodium Glutamate is considered a safe ingredient to consume or the FDA would not allow it in our foods. As it says on Wendy's nutrition guide pages, they are not required to even list it as an allergen. They are only required to list 8 allergens, in fact, which are eggs, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, soybeans (but not highly refined soybean oil), tree nuts and fish.
I believe MSG and processed glutamic acid should be treated as allergens and reported in ingredient lists. I also feel any soybean product, whether oil or any other food consumable made from soybean, should be required to be clearly listed. Until the FDA mandates this, however, the restaurants are unlikely to comply unless enough of us encourage it.