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Decoding Labels: Better Than Bouillon

My first rule for Real Food newbies is so simple. Become a label nazi. The only thing I ask is this: that you start looking at the ingredients label of everything (and I mean everything) that you buy or eat. You’d think it’d be easy. But sometimes we self-delude. Or perhaps we just don’t know what all the ingredients on a label actually are, so they don’t scare us (or disgust us) like they should.

Well, I thought you might enjoy a series of posts in which I examine the labels of some of the more popular “healthy” foods out there. In that spirit, I’m starting a weekly Decoding Labels post. In this series, I’ll highlight deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea.

This week’s villain? Better Than Bouillon.

Better Than Bouillon is marketed as an MSG-free, better-tasting alternative to bouillon. You can use it as a replacement for bouillon in recipes.

Here’s what the label claims:

“Better Than Bouillon concentrated bases are made from meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables. This gives them a richer, more robust flavor than ordinary bouillons. No added MSG, low or no fat, lower sodium: Better Than Bouillon bases have 1/3 less salt than ordinary bouillons.”

Better Than Bouillon: Ingredients

  • Chicken meat including natural chicken juices,
  • salt,
  • sugar,
  • corn syrup solids,
  • chicken fat,
  • hydrolyzed soy protein,
  • dried whey (milk),
  • flavoring,
  • disodium inosinate and guanylate,
  • turmeric.

Better Than Bouillon: DECODED

At first glance, the product looks somewhat promising. After all, it’s made from real meat. Surely that’s a plus right there? It sounds like it’s just a concentrated form of broth. It doesn’t have MSG! Surely that’s a plus, too? Maybe if you’re trying to eat less processed foods, you’d see this label and think that perhaps this was a healthier alternative to bouillon.

But the actual ingredients give the product away. The first thing we can say with certainty is that there is plenty of MSG in this product! (Read about why MSG is dangerous.)

How do I know that? Because hydrolyzed soy protein is an ingredient that always contains MSG! (source) Because the manufacturer didn’t add an ingredient called “mono-sodium glutamate,” they can “truthfully” claim “No MSG added” on their label. Yet, nothing is stopping them from adding ingredients that contain MSG. In that case, the manufacturer only has to list the name of the actual ingredient added, not the ingredients within those ingredients.

Because of this little-known fact, another ingredient on this label should give us pause: flavoring. MSG often hides in “flavoring,” “natural flavoring,” or “spices.” (source) Furthermore, the process used to create the dried whey produces — you guessed it — MSG!

And, as if that isn’t damning enough, the presence of disodium inosinate and guanylate alone would convince the savvy label-reader that MSG is certainly present. Why is that? Because these food additives are completely ineffective and useless without MSG! These are flavor enhancers that work in conjunction with MSG. There’s absolutely no reason for them to be there unless MSG is also there. (source)

Aside from all the MSG-containing and complimenting ingredients, the rest of the label is spotty as well. Corn syrup solids? Hello, highly-refined, genetically-engineered corn! Sugar? While this may seem harmless enough, chances are good that even this ingredient is made from genetically-engineered sugar beets. These highly-processed ingredients have no place in the Real Food kitchen.

Better Than Bouillon: THE VERDICT

So, what should you use instead?

Homemade broth, of course! Want to know how bouillon came to usurp the traditional, nutrient-rich bone broth? Read America Needs More Brothals.

Making homemade broth is easy! Check out this post on how to make beef broth.

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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100 Responses to Decoding Labels: Better Than Bouillon
  1. Kim
    February 28, 2012 | 9:44 am

    I just went to the refrigerator to look at my own jars of Better Than Bouillon and my ingredient list is completely different than your list.
    My jar of beef BTB contains: Roasted Beef and Natural Juices, Maltodextrin, Salt, Cane Sugar, Beef Stock, Beef Fat, Natural Flavor, Potato Starch, Celery Concentrate, Dried Garlic, Dried Onion, Carmel Color.

    Can you comment?

    • mary light
      February 28, 2012 | 1:24 pm

      She did say that MSF often hides as “natural flavoring”, and my inclination is to suspect that “natural flavor” could possibly be from “soy protein”….? One wonders just what “carmel color” is as well. Paint? (ha) or just more MSG?

    • KristenM
      February 28, 2012 | 1:27 pm

      Hi Kim,

      Better Than Bouillon makes many different flavors, so it’s no surprise that yours is different. At first glance:

      “Maltodextrin” — this food additive is almost always made from genetically-modified corn. It is a thickening agent that is sweet, but has fewer calories than sugar. It’s not *necessarily* an evil-bad ingredient, but it often is.

      “Natural flavor” — often, this contains MSG. But again, sometimes it doesn’t.

      “Celery concentrate” — this flavorful additive is often added instead of MSG, so it’s likely there is little to no hidden MSG in this product.

      “Caramel color” — This may be the most worrisome ingredient here. Although it is “naturally” derived, this food coloring can be made a number of ways (most involving genetically-engineered corn). The process by which it’s created can leave residual ammonium and sulfites. Studies have been done on the safety of caramel color that show it interferes with the metabolism of B6, reduces white blood cell count, softens feces, and has a carcinogenic effect.

      • Kim
        February 28, 2012 | 2:08 pm

        We have serious soy allergies so I am pretty zealous about labels, but always wanting to learn more.

        I agree with a post below about avoiding anything with a label. It’s a journey I guess. I’ve come far, but still have a long way to go.

      • Vatsala
        April 19, 2012 | 4:42 pm

        Hi Kristen

        “Maltodextrin” — this food additive is almost always made from genetically-modified corn.”

        – Would this be the case even if it says ‘organic’?

        • KristenM
          April 19, 2012 | 4:51 pm

          If the maltodextrin is labeled “organic maltodextrin,” then it can’t be GMO. That said, an organic product with just “maltodextrin” in it *can* have maltodextrin in it’s that from GMO corn. That’s because the organic certification doesn’t mean *everything* in the product is certified organic, just that a certain percentage of the ingredients are.

    • sally cameron
      April 18, 2012 | 1:23 pm

      That’s the organic version. The regular version list is not as good. And unfortunately the organic version still has caramel coloring in it.

    • tiff
      March 6, 2013 | 2:02 am


  2. Stealthy Mom
    February 28, 2012 | 10:24 am

    I never thought to look for the “disodium inosinate and guanylate.” Salt content alone would have that crap back on the shelf.

    My husband had a mini-stroke in May of last year, at the age of 40. He was healthy (looking) and trim, and towing our youngins on the bike at time. Since that moment, excess sodium has been our enemy since his blood pressure is an inherited trait.

    Salt and MSG travel together, and one often “replaces” the other. I actually saw “lower sodium than table salt!” advertised on a jar of Accent. You see the reverse as well. Salt gets cranked up to replace the MSG and the label brags about it.

  3. Amy
    February 28, 2012 | 10:56 am

    Excellent post! I will look forward to the whole series! Label-reading know-how is a skill that many people don’t have. I will be sharing this with others.

  4. Anna
    February 28, 2012 | 11:59 am

    Awesome idea – I’ll look forward to more of these!

  5. Lance Robinson via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 1:12 pm

    Thanks for the love

  6. Lynda McMaken via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 1:15 pm

    thanks for taking time to do this.

  7. Gill Dixon via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 1:15 pm

    Finally …I have being scanning lables for months …I understand some ….like Fructose, but could do with an easy guide to avoid all the things that are hidden under different names …Thanks ..

  8. Shelley
    February 28, 2012 | 1:20 pm

    I also went straight to the fridge because I would never buy anything with soy protein in it.
    My Organic Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base
    ingredient list reads: chicken meat and natural juices, maltodextrin, salt, chicken stock, cane sugar, chicken fat, potato starch, yeast extract, dried onion, dried garlic, turmeric, natural flavor

    I would be so interested to know if mine has msg and soy protein in it – I have not seen any negative reactions to it in my soy allergic children that would lead me to believe that there is any msg or soy in it.

    • KristenM
      February 28, 2012 | 1:29 pm

      Hi Shelley —

      “Yeast extract” always contains MSG. So, yes, yours has MSG in it.

      “Natural flavor” almost always contains MSG, but may not.

      “Maltodextrin” is almost always derived from GMO corn.

      Hope that helps!

    • atasteofcreole
      February 29, 2012 | 9:55 am

      It is nearly impossible NOT to have soy in your diet. Soy Lecithin is in EVERYTHING> It is what binds liquid and fats. It’s in Cascadian Farms products to organic at Whole Foods.

      I cannot eat anything processed because of soy. A specialist discovered my soy allergy at age 40. I have cut out soy almost 90% and there is a huge difference in my health.

      It is VERY difficult as I cannot eat out and have to take my own food EVERYWHERE!

  9. Mary Light via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 1:25 pm

    More and more I think anything WITH a label should be avoided…

    • JeffB
      February 28, 2012 | 10:41 pm

      Brilliant! Labels have become a convenient place for one last lie to deceive the consumer.

  10. Karin O. Shepherd-Buchanan via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 1:26 pm

    You’re awesome, thank you so much for sharing….looking forward to learning more.

  11. Nancy
    February 28, 2012 | 1:26 pm

    Just wondering what packaged/store bought is the best choice?
    I agree that homemade is best and I try to use it as much as possible but sometimes “needs must” and I need a stand-by for emergencies.
    Right now my home made stock is gone as my dad was sick and on a bland diet. He said he didn’t like broth but I gave him some of my beef stock and he loved it! So, I gave all of it to him to help him get his strength back.
    Just wondering what others have used off the shelf?

    • Frederica Huxley
      February 28, 2012 | 3:08 pm

      As we steam all our vegetables, we quite often boil down the ‘veg water’ and keep it in the freezer for emergencies when we are low on homemade meat broth. Works really well – with lots of flavor – in soups.

      • Tanya
        February 28, 2012 | 4:07 pm

        What a great idea! I just threw out a bunch of steamed asparagus water last night. I’d thought about keeping all that steam water, but it seemed too much. Never thought of boiling it down! DUH!

        (and I totally boil down and concentrate my home made chicken broth! — sometimes I’m too blonde!)

        • Danielle
          February 29, 2012 | 10:23 am

          Just curious – is it a good idea to reuse vegetable cooking water? Or are some of the anti-nutrients from the raw veggies, like broccoli/cabbage/greens that are best not eaten raw, still present in the cooking water?

          • KristenM
            February 29, 2012 | 11:59 am

            Most of the anti-nutrients are broken down in the heat of cooking (though not all). The biggest concern with re-using vegetable cooking water is the potential for excess nitrates to collect, although plants grown in a rich organic soil will be less likely to have this problem than conventionally grown produce (which will have been inundated with nitrogen-rich fertilizers).

            A number of vitamins do leech out of the veggie and into the water, so re-using the water is a good way to get those vitamins.

            So, I guess my answer is that it depends!

  12. Howard C. Gray via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 1:38 pm

    Defeat deceit!

  13. Evonne Burris via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 1:52 pm

    i keep looking at that in the store and thinking “REALLY??? ya know what’s better than bouillon? BONE BROTH… real bone broth that has so much gelatin in it you have to shake it out of the jar”… better flavor, no added crap or plastic food

    • Vanessa
      February 29, 2012 | 12:51 am

      Yum! Love me some bone broth. It’s not hard to make. Anyone who says they dont have time should slow cook it in a crock pot. So good for you, without the hidden MSG and GMOs.

  14. Howard C. Gray via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 1:54 pm

    What annoys me is the BS they put on the FRONT of the label, not just the deceit in the ingredients. EX: Hunts “traditional style” tomato sauce. Ingredients then state SOYBEAN oil is used (in place of Olive Oil). Any decent Italian Chef would have a seizure if they saw that. “MAMA MIA, why is BIODIESEL being used in tomato sauce?” Grr, argh!

  15. Holly Manns via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 2:01 pm

    Thanks for the decoding & for the alternative suggestion. Now to find it…or just make my own broth. This was something I’ve bought & thought was good. Shopping feels like russian routlette most days :/

  16. City Share
    February 28, 2012 | 2:16 pm

    Luckily I have never been a bouillon user. I have plenty of other areas that I could clean up my act though… looking forward to this series.

  17. Sarah Schneider via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 2:28 pm

    Seriously frustrated! I need to print that list that has all the names used for products I am avoiding!

  18. Elisabeth Bartlett Hartline via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 2:46 pm

    This is why I’ve learned to NEVER trust what’s listed on the front label…and, why I’ve become what my friends consider “super picky.”:D

  19. Food Renegade via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 2:51 pm

    Elisabeth Bartlett Hartline — Exactly! The truth is almost always on the back label, although even there it can still be tricky.

  20. slawebb
    February 28, 2012 | 2:54 pm

    I just figured this out about a month ago. Not sure what sparked my memory of what Hydrolized Soy Protein was, but I looked it up and stopped buying BTB. I also took back 2 jars I had sitting on the shelf. Won’t touch the stuff. The thing that bugs me is that it is stocked at my food co-op. So people, like me, think it’s healthy but really it’s not.

    • KristenM
      February 28, 2012 | 3:34 pm

      Exactly my point! The whole label situation is infuriating. I’m hoping this series of posts will help educate us all so we can make better food choices.

  21. Carol Terney Federoff via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 3:18 pm

    I love that you are doing this! Thank you. I actually did not have that disodium…..whatever it was….on my MSG avoid list….will be adding it!

  22. Unprocessed Living via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 3:33 pm

    Great advice – thanks for the sleuthing!

  23. marybeth
    February 28, 2012 | 3:52 pm

    Thanks for doing this one. I have health issues related to consuming MSG yet so often have to figure it out the hard way. I believe this one is lurking in my fridge as I type. Just bought it last week without really reading the back. I just trusted the no MSG lable. Grrrr!

    • sa'ada
      February 29, 2012 | 6:00 am

      you can trust the label on this one. no ADDED msg means that there is un-added msg. otherwise they would proudly and unequivocally state NO MSG.

  24. Tanya
    February 28, 2012 | 4:09 pm

    Thanks for doing this series. Great idea!!

  25. Michelle @ Find Your Balance
    February 28, 2012 | 4:24 pm

    Excellent post! I used to buy this stuff… and I could swear the ingredient list was super clean! Did it change? If now, wow, was I mistaken.

    • KristenM
      February 28, 2012 | 4:27 pm

      Well, they have something like 20 different flavors/varieties (low-fat, no-fat, low-sodium, organic, etc. for chicken, beef, ham, lobster and various veggies). So, it’s possible that it was a bit cleaner. A couple comments above asked about their specific variety, but even those had stuff like “maltodextrin” or “yeast extract” in them.

  26. Mamacoach Circle via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 4:29 pm

    What a great idea for a blog series!

  27. Shannon
    February 28, 2012 | 4:37 pm

    Thanks for the info. Look forward to more of the “Decoding Labels” series.

  28. Mileni Corletto-Tung via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 4:50 pm

    THAN YOU…almost purchased this very thing yesterday, then I read the label & back on the shelf it went! Made my own chicken stock instead.

  29. Mileni Corletto-Tung via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 4:50 pm

    I meant, Thank you!

  30. Kathryn Richards via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 4:56 pm

    Thanks for the info. My daughter-in-law made a wonderful soup and had added Better than Bullion (Beef) because she had no beef broth. Within an hour we were all feeling a bit under the weather. She, more than my son and I. After doing some sleuthing, we discovered we had eaten everything before except the bullion–we read the label and discovered at least three unknowns, which are probably what made us ill.

  31. Rachel White via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 5:29 pm


  32. Jennifer
    February 28, 2012 | 6:41 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this article. Last week I made some soup with BTB. It made me really sick. I didn’t understand why since it was organic and MSG free. I have a gluten allergy. I didn’t see that in the ingredients. Your article has been very helpful. Too bad I now have to throw away 3 jars of it.

    • KristenM
      February 28, 2012 | 6:54 pm

      Before you throw food away, try taking it back to the store! So long as the products are unopened, most supermarkets will take the food back and give you credit for them. (And, even if they’re opened, they may *still* give you credit for them if they were in any way spoiled or deficient.) No receipts necessary.

  33. Sayre franke
    February 28, 2012 | 7:05 pm

    This explains the headache I had this week. It is frustrating me to no end that organic products can contain the garbage I seriously don’t want to feed my family. I would love to say that I have a constant supply of homemade broth in my freezer, but sometimes it runs out, and I love to have the spoon of what I thought was a good substitute. Thanks for sharing.

    • KristenM
      February 28, 2012 | 7:11 pm

      One tip I wish I’d thought of earlier RE homemade broth: BUY BONES. No need to cook a ton of chickens or bone-in roasts (although they certainly help!). Just ask the butcher for the bones from their boneless, skinless organic chicken. I’ve bought them for as little as $.10/lb in some places.

      • Erin
        July 18, 2014 | 1:15 am

        You are lucky to have organic meats/bones available from your local butcher. No such thing where I live (smack in the middle of industrial agriculture country.) I make broth whenever I have bones/veggie leftovers but sometimes products such as organic BTB are the lesser of the evils.

  34. Regina Dawson
    February 28, 2012 | 8:00 pm

    So does this mean that regular powdered milk may have MSG? The ingredients listed on the box are “nonfat dry milk, Vit A, Vit D3.” I use 3 Tablespoons for making bread, but would want to eliminate it if it has MSG.

    • KristenM
      February 28, 2012 | 8:01 pm

      YES! Nonfat dry milk almost always contains free glutamic acid.

  35. Susan
    February 28, 2012 | 8:28 pm

    Good post. I recently read the ingredients of ALL of the broth in the store as I really needed something. It was depressing. I settled on the new one you see on TV – the ‘flavor enhancer’ in pouches. It had the fewest number of ingredients anyway.
    I look forward to more posts.

  36. Amy
    February 28, 2012 | 8:49 pm

    Great post, and I’m really looking forward to more!

    I learned a few years ago that the word “Added” usually meant it was in the product, but just not on the ingredient list. Oscar Meyer came out with hot dogs that have “No Added Nitrates Or Nitrites!” Then, in very tiny letters, something like “other than those naturally occuring in celery salt”).

    So I got a migraine for 3 days. And Oscar Meyer got an earful the next week.

    Now I don’t eat processed foods anyway, but it definitely taught me a lesson.

  37. Mama and Baby Love via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 9:07 pm

    I so needed this!

  38. April Miles Thornton via Facebook
    February 28, 2012 | 9:19 pm

    This article is slightly misleading. I am NOT saying this product is healthy, but you picture the organic Better Than Boullion but then list the ingredients and discuss the regular better than boullion. The organic version has these ingredients: Chicken Meat and Natural Juices*, Salt, Cane Sugar*, Maltodextrin*, Natural Flavor, Dried Onion*, Potato Starch*, Dried Garlic*, Turmeric* and Spice Extractives*.

  39. Alexandra M. Landeros
    February 28, 2012 | 10:16 pm

    Incidentally, right now I’m making chicken broth from scratch, right now, as I type this! It’s EASY. That broiled chicken that’s been completely stripped of its meat we finished for dinner tonight? I threw it in a pot, added onions and some old radishes, water…and now it’s boiling. (The chicken had previously only been seasoned with rosemary from my backyard and garlic. No salt.)

    I’m not the best at following recipes. Often, I experiment and improvise, and it turns out pretty good. Although, I’m sure I could make a tastier broth if I actually followed a recipe!

  40. Sally Dawson
    February 28, 2012 | 10:34 pm

    what does organic mean? I use these bouillons and thought organic ment the ingredients would not contain GMOs. I am confused these labels would have misleading information.

    • KristenM
      February 28, 2012 | 10:40 pm

      It’s complicated. On a single ingredient item, like produce, the “organic” label will mean that the item is not GMO. On a manufactured food product, like this, they can say they’re “organic” even though only 95% of the ingredients are organic. Furthermore, these food products can claim they’re “made with organic ingredients” if 70% or more of the ingredients are organic.

  41. Kim @ What's That Smell?
    February 28, 2012 | 10:38 pm

    Thanks for this! The company’s website (superiortouch dot com) claims their organic products are GMO free. They don’t mention MSG.

    • KristenM
      February 28, 2012 | 10:57 pm

      Well that’s good to know.

  42. Food Renegade via Facebook
    February 29, 2012 | 12:54 am

    April Miles Thornton — Yes, Shelley asked about the Organic Chicken Base version in one of the earlier post comments. You can read my response to her to see how that particular version measures up. There are a lot of versions of the Better Than Bouillon available (in chicken, beef, lobster, ham, and various veggie varieties, plus organic, non-organic, fat-free, low-sodium, etc.). To review them all would be impractical. I linked to the one I actually reviewed within the post itself, and you’ll find that it’s the regular chicken version. You’re right that the pic is for the organic version, but that’s because it was the only pic of these products that I could casually use that was large enough for my post. Hope that helps!

  43. Darris
    February 29, 2012 | 1:26 am

    This is SO disappointing! I’ve used the Organic Veg Bouillon for years. The only ingredient that concerned me was the Maltodextrin not thinking about the GMO factor. You say that Autolyzed Yeast Extract has MSG? This is very unsettling as I’ve recommended this in my recipes. I’m going to contact the company and see what they say.

    Thanks so much for the heads up!

    • KristenM
      February 29, 2012 | 1:40 am

      Well, according to Kim above, all their Organic label products are GMO-free. So, that’s a relief.

      But, it is also true that *all* autolyzed yeast extract has free glutamic acids (MSG) in it.

  44. Darris
    February 29, 2012 | 1:43 am

    OK, just shot off an email to the company and asked for a response . . .

    • KristenM
      February 29, 2012 | 1:49 am

      I’m not sure what they could say. After all, the process by which autolyzed yeast extract is made always produces free glutamic acid. It’s just the nature of the beast. Technically, it’s not the ingredient “monosodium glutamate,” so it’s perfectly legal for them to say “No MSG added” on their label.

      For more on the hidden sources of MSG, read this handout produced by the Truth In Labeling Campaign.

  45. Alan
    February 29, 2012 | 2:21 am

    I only eat things with one ingredient.
    Grass-fed Steak contains meat
    Eggs contain eggs
    Cream contains cream
    Fresh vegetables contain, well you get the picture.
    Eat nothing from a box or package that will last more than a week on the shelf. It’s not food.
    Shop the perimeters of the supermarket and better still, shop at Farmers Markets.

  46. mike b
    February 29, 2012 | 8:06 am

    How do we get people to read lables?
    How do we learn to understand what we are reading?

  47. Leanne
    February 29, 2012 | 10:53 am

    A bouillon is an awesome flavour enhancer, but the crap on the store shelves is, well crap, as you’ve pointed out. And, while stock absolutely should be the base liquid for soups, stews, sauces and more, I have the most amazing bouillon to add to EVERYTHING not just liquid stuff – we use it in burgers and meatloaf, for instance. It’s dead easy to make and keeps forever:

    It’s really flexible and you can create different versions based on what you have on hand or what’s coming up in the garden, etc. For instance, you could make this using just onion, carrot and celery (classic mirepoix) and add thyme, sage, savory, rosemary (bouquet garni) for a classic French cooking flavour base.

    One of my fave ways of using this is to put a teaspoon into hot stock (a la Gaps) for a super nutritious cup of soup: ultra fast food :)

  48. TGB
    February 29, 2012 | 11:10 am

    This is a fabulous idea… I thought for the last 2 years that I was already label Nazi, but I had been fooled..after reading up on your site I am thoroughly mistaken & am changing everything item, by item!! Please do continue Label decoding- First, the Agave Nectar got me, and now all these other things. I just checked my last pack of shredded cheese, there it was, ” cellulose” UGH. Gross I don’t want anything processed using chemicals… thank you very much for all the info & research you do!!!

  49. KelleY
    February 29, 2012 | 12:10 pm

    They say that putting a piece of seaweed in your pot will enhance flavor in the way MSG does.

  50. Emily
    February 29, 2012 | 3:28 pm

    Great to know! Thank you!

  51. Lyn
    March 2, 2012 | 2:28 am

    OMG I just grabbed mine out of the fridge and am surprised – I was one of those who thought it was better also!!! I usually make my own and just kept this on hand for in a pinch – will go without from now on instead if I don’t have homemade on hand – I try to always have at least some vegetable broth on hand in my freezer…

  52. Andrea (@FrSeed2Stomach)
    March 2, 2012 | 9:34 am

    Great write-up! I usually make my own broth, but keep some bouillon around JUST in case. I have turned to Seitenbacher Vegetarian Vegetable Broth and Seasoning because I recognize all of the ingredients:
    Nutritional Yeast Extract, Sea Salt, Carrots, Onions, Turmeric Root, Leek, Parsley, Nutmeg, Garlic, Lovage, Celery, Pepper, Balm, Dill, Paprika.

    • KristenM
      March 2, 2012 | 2:56 pm

      Andrea — According to the folks at Truth In Labeling, nutritional yeast extract *always* contains processed free glutamic acids (MSG).

  53. sally cameron
    April 18, 2012 | 1:27 pm

    Good post. Thanks. Condiments and products like BTB are some of the toughest areas to eliminate bad ingredients. I occasionally use BTB organic beef version in a recipe. Unfortunately the deep flavor is hard to beat and replace, although I will continue to look for alternatives and update the few recipes it goes into.

    There is a good app from the Center for Public Science (CSPI) I have on my iPHone called Chemical Cuisine. Very helpful for looking up ingredients in labels when you are shopping. It’s free on their site.

  54. Vatsala
    April 19, 2012 | 4:40 pm


    The ingredient list on my jar is very differnt to the one in the article. It is a ‘vegetable base’- suitable for vegans. Should I be concerned?


  55. Leslie
    April 19, 2012 | 4:53 pm

    Great post, most people don’t realize when they pick their chickens either when it says “no added hormones”. People think it means no hormones at all, when it just means no hormones were added after the processing, very deceptive. Just like “all natural”, hello… wood is all natural aka cellulose!

    • A
      September 7, 2013 | 12:01 am

      By U.S. law, no hormones are used in the raising of chickens, other fowl, and hogs. I mean, sure, they’re animals who sexually mature, so there are naturally-occuring hormones, but no added hormones whatsoever.

  56. Anon
    May 1, 2012 | 2:49 pm

    Thanks. I had no idea something labeled organic could contain MSG. I bouught this a few weeks ago and got a terrible headache after the first use and threw it away. I know something was wrong.

    This is an eye opener. Have you tried Vogue Cuising Flavored Base?

  57. Shannon
    May 9, 2012 | 8:10 am

    I have this product and my ingredient list is quite different:
    Chicken Meat and Natural Juices (organic), Salt, Cane Sugar (organic), Maltodextrin (organic), Natural Flavor, Dried Onion (organic), Potato Starch (organic), Dried Garlic (organic), Tumeric (organic), and Spice Extractives.

    Why such different ingredients?? Mine doesn’t sound as bad as the one you reviewed.

    • KristenM
      May 9, 2012 | 9:34 am

      No. You don’t have this product. You have their organic chicken base. I decoded it for a reader in one of the above comments.

  58. Mary A Kayhart
    June 5, 2012 | 3:15 pm

    The Organic “Better than Bouillon that I purchace is certified Organic by the USDA

    •Chicken meat and natural juices,*
    •Natural flavor
    •dried onion*,
    •potato starch*,
    •dried Garlic*,
    •spice extractives*
    Certified Organic by QAI and USDA organic

    • KristenM
      June 5, 2012 | 6:05 pm

      Yes, you may read my reply to Shelley above, when she submitted the ingredients to the Organic Better Than Bullion Chicken.

      Please note, this post is not about the organic chicken base, but the regular chicken base I linked to in the post.

      Better Than Bullion has many varieties of base — for many types of meat, seafood, and veggies and in combinations of low-fat, low-sodium, organic and non organic. I could only write the post about a single variety, so I chose perhaps the most used one — the regular chicken.

      Hope that helps!

  59. Katherine
    September 21, 2012 | 12:29 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. Now I know why I feel like crap today! I ate something yesterday made with this product. Despite trying very hard to avoid MSG, it’s clear now that I need to look for those other items too.

  60. Tyler
    October 3, 2012 | 11:53 am

    Make your own broth! It’s not that difficult; and you will know exactly what’s in it and what’s not. There are so many questionable things out there, in pretty boxes, cans, and plastic wrapping, I feel much better knowing what I’m eating, without the ‘stuff’ that’s added just for flavor. Seriously?! If you make your own meals from fruits, veggies, and whatever else, AND you’re not addicted to sugar/salt/caffeine, you’d be amazed at how much flavor there really is in a homemade meal. I know time is an issue for most people; but isn’t your body worth a little extra prep time? I’m a retired Navy single mother of three, with two still at home. I sleep better (not much, but better) knowing they’re eating good food grown locally by someone with whom I can shake hands once a week, as I give them a few measley dollars for all their hard work, instead of forking over half a paycheck to a grocery store whose produce is flown in from as far as South Africa! Why would I want to eat produce from a foreign country, aside from bananas, when apples, peaches, avocadoes, and so much more is grown in my state (SC) or in neighboring states?! I won’t even start on the toxic crap found in cans/boxes that can all be avoided with just a few extra hours of home cooking — I know it’s a lot, and I cook/prep on weekends and at night sometimes. I’m worth it and so are my kids. Homemade is cheaper, simpler, and smarter. Just some thoughts from a coutry girl who’s been around the world, but still appreciates the clean, clear, and simple things in life…

  61. Deb
    April 26, 2013 | 3:20 pm

    I found a new version of Better than Bouillon with “Organic” stamped on the label. Is this any better?

    • A
      September 7, 2013 | 12:03 am

      Read all the comments and you’ll see.

  62. Dick Dixon
    October 5, 2013 | 6:32 pm

    Awesome article! Thank you. I have two questions. How about Squid/Prawn brand fish sauce, does it contain MSG? The ingredients are Anchovy Extract, Salt, and Sugar. It seems ok, but I have read that the extraction process may use MSG.

    As I understand it, from reading about Dr Russel Blaylock, the real problem with MSG, is that it is a glutamic acid and becomes an Excitotoxin in our bodies. It may be the cause of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Parkensons. This is serious. So, many items and processes in cooking contain and or release naturally occuring glutimates. Are naturally occurring glutimates bad like MSG?

    Thanks again, your willingness to share your knowledge is greatly appreciated.

  63. Doug
    December 18, 2013 | 10:51 am

    VERY good article! This has been my go to soup base brand for years and now I know that it’s got junk in it I’ll have to look elsewhere for a product that doesn’t contain poison! That’s too bad too because I really like the flavor of these bases….Thanks again!

  64. Becky
    December 19, 2013 | 12:41 pm

    Well crap

  65. Betty
    January 4, 2014 | 8:09 pm

    Ugh, and I sooooo loved this crap. What a disappointment….sigh….I thought it was the real deal….bummer.

  66. Cindy
    February 4, 2014 | 10:06 am

    I am from a family with multiple food allergies. Last year, after reading a laundry list of symptoms for gluten intolerance that were ALL mine as well, I started trying to go gluten free. What a chore! I have read labels until I am blue in the face. As for chicken, try finding a package of run-of-the-mill fresh or frozen that doesn’t list “with chicken broth” or some similar statement. Who knows what is really in that ‘broth’? I have been leery of MSG for decades, and am appalled that a friend still makes their ‘signature salad’ with a very heavy sprinkling of Accent, which is pure MSG, and boiled eggs. With a newly diagnosed egg allergy as well, no wonder I used to always get sick after eating with them! I thought it was drinking too much wine, LOL!

  67. Marcella
    February 26, 2014 | 3:16 pm

    Ours says Non – gmo and organic. Doesn’t make sense to have these labels and contain GMO and I ingredients not organic.

  68. Lacey
    March 16, 2014 | 6:07 pm

    It says no ADDED MSG and I always buy the organic which doesn’t contsin MSG at all that I’m aware of.

  69. Sharon
    July 13, 2014 | 11:55 am

    i use Better than Bouillon,anyway. Some things are just worth the pho pas (sp)!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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