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Merriam-Webster Updates 'Dated, Offensive' Term

It has to do with MSG in Chinese restaurants
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 23, 2020 5:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Merriam-Webster has updated its entry on "Chinese restaurant syndrome," a term many Asian Americans saw as antiquated and even racist. The phrase was previously defined as a legitimate illness brought on by food seasoned with monosodium glutamate but "especially Chinese food." Merriam-Webster.com said symptoms include numbness of the neck, arms and back as well as headaches and dizziness. Now, the definition has a detailed disclaimer noting the term as "dated" and "offensive," the AP reports. It also states research conducted since the so-called syndrome was reported in the 1960s has not found any link between MSG and those symptoms. It also contains a link to another entry—the more clinical term, "MSG symptom complex."

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, confirmed the changes. "This process is always ongoing, and includes the gathering of evidence and drafting of revisions to be reviewed by specialized and senior editors before being added to a scheduled release of changes," he said. The issue gained attention in January when Ajinomoto, a longtime Japanese producer of MSG seasonings, called on Merriam-Webster to alter its entry. The company hired restaurateur Eddie Huang and The Real TV co-host Jeannie Mai for a social media campaign. MSG comes from glutamate, a common amino acid or protein building block found in food. The Food and Drug Administration says MSG is generally recognized as a safe addition to food.

(Read more Chinese food stories.)

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