Monosodium_glutamate_crystals Food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) crystals, from a container branded as "Mimi's Products." Ragesoss/Wikimedia Commons

That savory, meaty, salty taste you get after taking a bite of Chinese beef and broccoli or after a crunch into a Doritos nacho cheese chip is unmistakable. It hits your tongue, makes it water, and leaves you craving more.

MSG, which stands for monosodium glutamate — a naturally-occurring food additive — is largely responsible for that irresistible taste.

Chemists have been infusing it into everything from broths, frozen pizzas, flavored potato chips, salad dressings, deli meats, and hot dogs, for more than a century to make them taste addictively delicious.

"We wouldn't have processed food without MSG," Emma Boast, program director of the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, New York told Tech Insider. "It makes canned foods tasty."

MSG is a naturally occurring amino acid that makes up proteins in our bodies. But the compound's safety has been debated for years.

While it is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration, some claim that it can cause adverse reactions in sensitive people, including chest pain, flushing, and sweating. It's also reportedly caused numbness or burning near the mouth and facial pressure or swelling.

While there haven't been any studies to back up this claim, it would be helpful for sensitive or MSG-wary people to know which processed foods contain the ingredient.

But because the additive can go by many different names, it can be difficult to tell which foods contain it.

Take this Doritos label, for instance. You can easily tell that there's MSG in it, because it's listed simply by its full name, "Monosodium Glutamate."

Cool ranch doritos label an Natural News

But check out this nutrition label for Nissin Chicken Garden Vegetable Flavor Soup. While it does reveal that it indeed contains monosodium glutamate, it also contains many other forms of glutamates that are often considered slight variations on MSG.

Hydrolyzed protein, for example, is just proteins that are broken down into their animo acid components – one of which is glutamic acid, another name for MSG. Autolyzed yeast is a similar example, yeast cells are allowed to die and pop open, which releases their innards, which then break down into individual amino acids — including glutamic acid.

nissin_chicken_vegetable_soup_an Soap.com

MSG can go by these and many other synonymous names as well, including monosodium salt, monohydrate, monosodium glutamate, monosodium glutamate monohydrate, monosodium L-glutamate monohydrate, MSG monohydrate, sodium glutamate monohydrate, UNII-W81N5U6R6U, L-Glutamic acid, monosodium salt, and monohydrate.

Foods that contain these ingredients, of course, aren't necessarily bad for you. Glutamate is a naturally occuring chemical in cheeses, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, peas, and walnuts. Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda first isolated MSG from seaweed in 1908.

But its good to know that MSG and MSG-like additives can sneak into foods without clear and straightforward labeling — especially if your food comes from a drive-thru window or the the prepackaged aisles of your grocery store.