No MSG: Chinese Restaurant Menus, Monosodium Glutamate and the Trope of Risk in Shaping Chinese Culture
thesisposted on 23.05.2021, 16:35 by Yvonne Yeung
This paper examines how Chinese restaurants use the message of “No MSG” as a response to the perceived risk of the flavouring agent monosodium glutamate in Chinese cuisine. Using risk communication theory, and treating MSG as material, this paper will investigate how MSG becomes a synecdoche for Chinese food and perpetuates a fear of Chinese culture in Canada. As MSG is scientized as a “risk factor” instead of a flavouring agent, Chinese restaurants respond by messaging “No MSG” as a response to this perceived risk. Using rhetorical analysis of Chinese food menus, this paper identifies how businesses respond to the discursive framework of a “risk” of MSG through messaging found in their take-out food menus. This paper posits that the scientization of MSG as a harmful chemical, specifically in Chinese food, has created a space for biases not only against Chinese food but also Chinese culture in Canada.