Modified Corn Starch

Modified Corn Starch: What is it and Why is it in Your Food?

Modified corn starch (sometimes also referred to as modified food starch) is a vague term found on ingredient labels. It refers to corn starch that has been treated to change its properties. How it is modified, and what properties are changed depends on how it is going to be used.

Modified corn starch that has been treated to change its properties.

Corn Starch

Description:

Starch is basically a carbohydrate molecule that is shaped like a long chain. To make corn starch, the corn kernels are soaked and then the outer shell is removed. The center of the kernel is called the embryo. It is also removed. Everything that remains is mostly starch. It is dried and ground into powder.

Sometimes we might want to use the starch in situations where it is not ideal.  For example, corn starch will break down when heated.  If the starch is modified, it can withstand higher temperatures.  One of the main uses of starch is to act as a gelling agent.  When modified corn starch is used, foods can keep their texture better when heated.

There are two ways to modify corn starch; oxidation or acid modification.

Oxidation:

One type of modified corn starch is called Oxidized Corn Starch.  Properties of the corn starch are modified using oxidizing agents such as chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate, or sodium hypochlorite.

Acid Modification:

The second type of modified corn starch is called acid-modified corn starch.  The starch is mixed with water, heated and treated with a mild acid.  Once the starch’s properties reach the desired state, the acid is neutralized (possibly with sodium carbonate).  Then the starch is filtered, washed and dried.

What is Modified Corn Starch Used For?

Modified corn starch is found everywhere. It is an ingredient in a lot of products. Modified corn starch can be used as a

  • stabilizer,
  • thickening agent, or an
  • emulsifier.

Side Effects / Health Issues:

Does Modified Corn Starch Contain Gluten?

In the US, the FDA regulates what can be used to modify corn starch. None of the products contain gluten. If the starch is from wheat, the label will say something like “modified wheat starch”. Foods regulated by the FDA must list wheat on the ingredient label.

Notes:

The E numbers for modified corn starch are

Sources:

  1. Gluten Free Living – Modified Food Starch
  2. TheStir – Is Modified Food Starch Bad for You?
Posted in Emulsifier, Food Additives, Ingredients, Thickeners and Gelling Agents

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