WASHINGTON -- The final ruling on labeling products containing ingredients with highly hydrolyzed protein or autolyzed yeast extract with the phrase "contains glutamate" has been delayed until July at the earliest. The Food and Drug Administration, in January of last year, proposed that the phrase be used as part of the common or usual description of autolyzed yeast extracts and certain hydrolyzed proteins, including hydrolyzed vegetable protein. These are commonly used as flavoring agents by the food industry in a wide variety of savory products, including soups, snacks and salad dressings.
As of May 8, 1994, FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture required food manufacturers to list hydrolyzed protein products by the specific protein source in the ingredient legend, such as hydrolyzed soy protein. They must be listed separately and in order of predominance. The term "natural flavor" cannot be used for these ingredients.
The term "glutamate" refers to all salts, such as monosodium glutamate, as well as the free form of glutamic acid. Most proteins contain some level of glutamic acid, a naturally occurring amino acid. The free form provides the characteristic flavor. Hydrolyzed vegetable proteins and autolyzed yeast extracts promote a meaty or brothy flavor in foods due to their entire amino acid content, including glutamates.