More times than I can remember I've been in a local restaurant with foreigners (usually Americans), who, as I am ordering, make a point of telling me to ask for the food without MSG. Inwardly I roll my eyes, then tell the waitress that we'd like our food without MSG, which is always greeted with a look of bewilderment that might cross the face of a waitress in the US if you asked for coconut cream pie without the coconut. I'm 99.9% sure the bizarre message is never conveyed to the cook, who would in such an event question her sanity, but so long as I have feigned compliance of the foreigner's request, he or she usually enjoys the meal, which I am 99.9% sure has MSG as a main ingredient (why do you think the food tastes so good)?
The Guardian has a great piece up about a recent study debunking the so-called "China Restaurant Syndrome" — that ascribes all sorts of ailments (itching, watery eyes, etc.) to eating MSG. It's called "Why MSG Allergy is Fake Science."
In May this year, the medical journal Clinical & Experimental
Allergy published a review of more than a decade of scientific research
into "the possible role of MSG in the so-called 'Chinese restaurant syndrome'".Chinese
restaurant syndrome is the popular slang for allergies or adverse
reactions that some people claim they get after eating food containing
the flavour-enhancer monsodium glutamate, or MSG, that is widely used
in many processed foods and also added to many Asian dishes.
So if you're in China, or coming to China, please don't ask the waitress for your food to be cooked without MSG. She'll ignore you and you'll love the food anyway.