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Actress Ann Kok once suffered such a bad allergic reaction to MSG that her 'entire body went numb'

We all probably know someone who can be difficult when it comes to food, like a friend who is a picky eater or just doesn’t like to try new things.

Ann Kok, 50, is the former. That’s also because the self-proclaimed foodie has high expectations when it comes to food. She loves Japanese cuisine and hawker food.

Her favourite? Bak chor mee and prawn noodles, both with bee hoon, not yellow noodles, in soup, thank you very much.

“Eating is one of the biggest joys in life. I don’t want to eat things that are not nice. If I have time, I would like to savor a meal, whether it is lunch, dinner, or breakfast,” the actress told host Jernelle Oh in a recent episode of #JustSwipeLah.

“My mum is a good cook, so when I dine out, I tend to be fussier and choose good food. Plus, I am very troublesome. There are a lot of things that I cannot eat.”

She wasn’t always like this, though.

“As you age, your body changes too. I used to be able to consume milk but now I can’t. It gives me the runs. And I’ve never reacted well to mushrooms like portobello, but recently (it’s gotten worse). I get hives when I eat mushrooms and it will be very itchy. I am allergic to it,” Ann revealed.

But the most severe, she says, is her intolerance to MSG.

And how she found out could not be more dramatic.

“My friend took me to try this bak kut teh in 2006. The soup was very yummy, so I just kept drinking it. I had around three bowls of it,” Ann recounted to

“After around 30 minutes, I turned pale and broke out in cold sweat. My entire body went numb, and I curled up like a prawn. I could not walk, so I told my friend to send me home.”

Ann didn’t go to the hospital ‘cause she felt her family could take care of her, but they were already asleep when she got home.

“When I hit the bed, I passed out. I don’t know if I fainted or fell asleep,” she said.

“I am very thankful I managed to wake up the next morning. There was a lot of MSG in that soup,” she added.

“The next day, my friend told me he consulted a friend who is a GP, and the doctor said in such situations, if I don’t go to hospital, there’s a possibility that I could have died. It’s that serious.”

Despite the scare, Ann didn’t see a doctor to get her condition checked.

“See already also no use. It’s an allergy. I just avoid consuming MSG,” she laughed.

She did get a food intolerance test that revealed sensitivities to other foods like egg whites, baked beans, and dairy.

Being intolerant to so many foods, you would think Ann carries medication like antihistamines around with her. 

Well, she doesn’t. “Who will bring medication with them whenever they go out?” said Ann, before realising that it’s not such a bad suggestion.

“Maybe I should ‘cause sometimes I get swollen eyes and I don’t know what triggered it. It happened during my recent Japan trip and my eyes were swollen for almost a week.”

Following the serious allergic reaction, Ann is now “very scared” to eat bak kut teh and is extra careful when dining out, especially when having Chinese cuisine.

She would inform restaurant staff of her allergy and request that they refrain from using MSG.

She has suffered several “mild” reactions to the flavour enhancer but none in recent years, thankfully.

“If I turn pale or feel my cheeks going numb after having a few sips of soup, I will quickly down a lot of water or fizzy drinks to flush out the MSG,” she said.

This story was originally published in 8Days. 

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