What is Chinese Restaurant Syndrome and the racism behind it?

Merriam-Webster will be reviewing the definition following the campaign

Activists have launched a campaign to "redefine Chinese Restaurant Syndrome", in a bid to stop racist barbs in defining the term. The activists believe that MSG, the content from which the definition of the term is derived, is not unhealthy. According to them, monosodium glutamate, the flavor enhancer, is claimed to be unhealthy without any scientific evidence.

Spearheaded by the Japanese food and seasoning company Aji-no-moto, the new campaign tries to focus on bringing down the negative connotation behind defining the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS).

Merriam-Webster defines CRS as "a group of symptoms (such as numbness of the neck, arms, and back with headache, dizziness, and palpitations) that is held to affect susceptible persons eating food and especially Chinese food heavily seasoned with monosodium glutamate". The website clarifies that it was first used in 1968 in Chinese food.

Ajinamoto/MSG Wikimedia Commons

Tweeting the #RedefineCRS

The Japanese company's website tries to change the myth behind the definition and break it down into the simple context about the content. Celebrities have come together in support of the company in reconstructing the xenophobic word.

Several restaurateurs and medical professionals came together in the campaign video tweeted by the company to help understand the myth and to know why MSG can be used.

Merriam-Webster took to Twitter to say that they will review the definition of the term.

The company is trying to accomplish the goal of re-imagining what the food enhancer actually means.

What is MSG?

MSG is a common amino acid used in several of the food items that people eat today, including tomatoes and cheese. It has the flavor that taps into the fifth basic taste that is "umami", the complex natural taste found in cheese or mushrooms.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, people have consumed the flavor from MSG for long, but the debates behind the health benefits of consuming the substance began in 1968. There has been no revelation that the substance is unhealthy.