Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mierda! What is MSG doing in La Costena Mexican Green Salsa?

The change on the label of La Costena Mexican Green Salsa isn't a good one. Monosodium glutamate or MSG is now being added. The salsa tasted fine without the flavor enhancer, once blamed for "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome," which linked MSG to chest pain, headaches and other problems experienced by people who ate Chinese food.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss the importance of reading ingredients labels, and play lost and found at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.


I'm a big reader of ingredients labels, but with products I have been using for years, I usually don't bother to look every time I buy them.

On Tuesday, I felt like preparing fresh fish with a medium-spicy Mexican green salsa or salsa verde, which I also use on omelets and frittatas.

I picked up wild-caught fillets of Icelandic haddock at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack for $8.99 a pound, and, when I got home, cut them into serving pieces.

When I took out a bottle of La Costena Mexican Green Salsa I had in the cupboard, I turned it to read the label to see if a preservative was being used, and was shocked to see monosodium glutumate listed in capital letters.

Other brands

I've used Mexican Green Salsa from Goya and Herdez, and like La Costena they are made in Mexico.

I've also tried Roasted Salsa Verde sold at Trader Joe's, Target and Whole Foods Market.

None contain MSG, and some are even preservative-free. The main ingredients are tomatillos and jalapeno peppers.

Luckily, I had a bottle of Roasted Salsa Verde from Whole Foods in my cupboard on Tuesday, and used the contents of the 16-ounce bottle and juice from two limes to prepare the meal in only 5 minutes from the time the haddock was placed in the simmering sauce. 

If I can find the receipt, I am planning to get a refund for the La Costena green salsa from Hackensack Market, where my wife purchased it.

Truth is, I already inadvertently used a bottle of this La Costena green salsa with MSG (I found it in our recycling bin).

I don't think I suffered any ill effects, and there are Web sites saying that MSG has gotten a bad rap -- that the flavor enhancer isn't to blame for health problems.

But if I can easily find green salsa and other bottled and canned food without MSG, why take a chance?

I added a pinch of Aleppo pepper to the haddock before cooking the pieces in dark green, roasted salsa verde from Whole Foods Market and fresh lime juice. The sauce was a nice accent for baked sweet potatoes, below. A big Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix salad ended the meal. 

At ShopRite in Paramus, I saw this good buy on low-sodium Colonna Pasta Sauce, but the ingredients label listed high fructose corn syrup, which is linked to the obesity epidemic, a real turn-off. Many other pasta sauces contain added sugar.

I haven't been able to find Tru Roots Organic Quinoa at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, where I've purchased it several times before. On Tuesday, I found a new brand from Peru, Andean Gold Organic Quinoa, which is also non-GMO. A 4-pound bag was $17.99.

I continue to enjoy adding Aleppo pepper and za'atar thyme mixture to boost the flavor of a simple open-face cheese omelet, above, served with leftover organic whole-wheat shells and mixed vegetables. The spices are available in-store or by mail order at Fattal's, a Syrian bakery, butcher and grocery in Paterson.

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