A glutamate intolerance (also known as Chinese restaurant syndrome) can occur after taking salts of glutamic acid (glutamate). Glutamic acid is a natural component in many foods. Glutamates are also added to the food as flavour enhancers in preparations, especially in Asian cuisine or convenience food products.

Occurrence and symptoms

Yeast extract, stock cubes, spice mixtures, Parmesan cheese and Asian food such as soy and fish sauce contain a lot of glutamate. Glutamates are used in large quantities as a food additive especially in Asian cuisine and in almost all finished and semi-finished products of the food industry. This also includes potato chips and bag soups.

Already ten to twenty minutes after ingestion, dry mouth, reddened skin (e.g. cheeks) with heat sensation, heart palpitations, itching in the throat, (temple) headaches, facial muscle rigidity, neck stiffness, limb pain and nausea can occur in people with intolerance.

Regulatory limits

According to Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 on food additives, from 01.06.2013 maximum levels of 10 g/kg, expressed as glutamic acid, for the glutamate-based additives E620-E625 apply individually or in combination.