Find out what modified food starch is, what it’s made from, and if it’s safe to eat on a gluten-free diet.
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If you’ve looked at the back of any packaged food, you may have seen in the ingredients list “modified food starch.” Without any kind of context, it’s unclear that that ingredient actually is.
In this post, we’re going to dive into the topic of modified food starch and answer some pressing questions about this mystery ingredient. We’ll talk about what it is, what it’s made from, and if it’s gluten-free.
If you’ve been following a gluten-free diet or are just getting started with one, this post will be a great read for you to understand a little more about this food additive and how it will fit in with your diet.
Let’s learn a little more about modified food starch!
What is modified food starch?
Modified food starch is an additive that’s used in some processed foods to thicken or stabilize the texture of a food. It’s a food additive ingredient that’s also used as an anti-caking agent.
The best definition I’ve found on modified food starch is from the Bob’s Red Mill website:
“Modified food starch is made by physically, enzymatically, or chemically altering starch to change its inherent properties. In this instance, modified does not necessarily mean genetically modified, however some modified starches are likely made from genetically modified ingredients.”
Which foods contain modified food starch?
You can find modified food starch in a lot of processed foods. You can find it in foods to thicken them, keep them from sticking together, or to modify the texture.
These are just a few places I’ve seen modified food starch: chocolate, cheese, mayonnaise, cereal, Gatorade, salad dressings, marshmallows, Cool Whip, and candy.
What is modified food starch made from?
Most modified food starch is often made from corn in the United States and greater North America. Another name you’ll find on ingredient lists is modified corn starch, though modified food starch can also be made from tapioca, potato, and wheat.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
Gluten is naturally occurring, and therefore is impossible to strip away from the grain. If a grain naturally has gluten in it, there’s no way to make that food gluten-free.
Gluten can be found in some cereal products in the form of wheat, wheat flour, malt flavor, or malt barley. You can also find gluten hidden in flavorings and additives.
Is modified food starch gluten-free?
Modified food starch is generally considered gluten-free in the U.S. as most of the time corn or maize products are used for this ingredient.
By law, it’s required to list any food with wheat, so if you see on an ingredient list “modified food starch (wheat),” you’ll know that this product is not gluten-free. However if you see only “modified food starch,” this product may (or may not) be gluten-free.
Some modified food starch can come from wheat or be produced on the same equipment as other gluten containing ingredients and grains. Cross contact is possible with modified food starch.
In general, it’s a good idea to always check ingredients lists and know what is in all the food that you’re eating on a gluten-free diet. It’s also a good idea if you’re Celiac or are extremely sensitive to gluten to look for a gluten-free label on the package of what you’re buying.
A gluten-free label will indicate that a product has less than 20ppm of gluten, so if you see modified food starch in the ingredients and a gluten-free label, you can trust that this is a safe choice for your diet.
Is modified corn starch gluten-free?
While modified food starch may give a person following a gluten-free diet some pause to wonder where it is derived, modified corn starch is safe for a gluten-free diet.
We know this, because corn starch is derived from corn, a gluten-free food. You can feel confident eating foods with modified corn starch on a gluten-free diet.
Read on: Is cornstarch gluten-free?
If you’ve been wondering if modified food starch is safe for a gluten-free diet, I hope this post has helped you get the questions you’ve been looking for. Most modified food starch is made with corn in the U.S., but it never hurts to look at ingredient lists to be sure there’s no mention of wheat in parentheses next to this ingredient on the package.
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