Gwyneth Paltrow never attended the dinner organized by comedian Jenny Yang and Japanese food company Ajinomoto to dispel myths surrounding monosodium glutamate (MSG), Yang revealed.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Yang said she invited Paltrow, 49, and
her wellness platform Goop to dinner at The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica on Wednesday to have a fact-based discussion about the “clean eating” lifestyle and diet that the actress and her wellness company promote.
“Food has been a lifelong passion of mine because it’s so tied with my culture, it’s so tied with identity,” Yang told THR Wednesday night. “When I became a comedian and built a following online, talking back to people who would malign ingredients or foods that represented my culture became one of my favorite things to talk about. [Goop] was calling MSG not clean eating when that’s not even backed by scientific evidence … so this was a natural fit for me.”
The event featured Laotian dishes with “a California flair” made by Los Angeles-based Chef Saeng Douangdara. Most of the food served at the event, such as the rehydrated sticky rice, Lao meatballs and spaghetti, chicken larb rice-paper tacos and Hong Shao Rou braised pork, all contained MSG, except the starter lemongrass cold corn soup. According to THR, guests were made to try the soup with the MSG and without to compare the taste.
“If you think about how Asian American representation happens in this country, people immediately think of food. That’s one of the more prominent formats where we have influence on the culture,” Yang said.
“[Goop] put their flag in the sand and said MSG is not clean eating, therefore dirty. There’s a huge history of demonizing MSG for what it represented — it was very much connected to Chinese restaurants and people. There’s a lot of baggage with MSG, and I don’t think they’ve been thinking about this when they call it dirty.”
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In Goop’s wellness section under “The Power of Detoxification and Getting Clean,” the company listed MSG in the same “toxin” category as lead, arsenic and detergent.
“The air we breathe, the water we drink and shower with, the buildings we live and work in, and most of all, the foods we eat, are loaded with chemicals that alone or in combination cause irritation, inflammation, sickness and, ultimately, death,” Goop wrote in the Q and A.
The Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations all listed MSG as a “safe food ingredient.”
According to Dr. Tia Rains, VP of customer engagement and strategic development at Ajinomoto North America, MSG is not only safe as a food enhancer but also helps to “reduce sodium anywhere from 30 to 50 percent.”
“My background is in nutrition science, and so, to me, that’s extremely important when 9 out of 10 Americans overconsume the amount of sodium you should be having for a healthy diet,” Rains told THR.
Some of the common foods made with MSG include parmesan cheese, ranch dressing, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, soups and savory snacks, to name a few.
Yang spoke on the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Extra Spicy” podcast in June to help dispel some of the myths behind MSG and to address Goop’s branding of the seasoning.
“When you call things ‘clean’ or ‘dirty,’ it starts to edge into that territory of what’s ‘othered’ and what’s not,” Yang said in the podcast. “There’s racist and xenophobic history behind calling out MSG … the food industry and the wellness industry need to become more aware of the fact that they shouldn’t be demonizing something so specific.”
In a press release on July 21, Ajinomoto, a Japanese multinational company that produces seasonings, including MSG, said they were awaiting word from Paltrow and Goop about the dinner invitation in which they were scheduled to talk about the company’s “problematic stance” on MSG. Ajinomoto asked Yang and other celebrities, including Margaret Cho, Harry Shum Jr. and Gail Simmons, to participate in the #TakeOutHate campaign in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The campaign urged people to support Asian restaurants amid the growing anti-Asian hate brought on by the pandemic by ordering from them, taking pictures of their food and posting them online with the hashtag #TakeOutHate.
Goop has allegedly removed some of its articles that mention MSG from its websites or added disclaimers to them in the wake of the campaign, Yang and other people at the dinner allege.
Featured Image via Know MSG