The term ‘modified corn starch’ is just a general term that refers to corn starch that has had its properties changed, depending on the use. It is mostly made from corn, but can also be made from wheat, tapioca, potato or even rice.
The process of making corn starch is very simple. The kernels are soaked, and then the outer shell is removed. Thereafter, the embryo or center of the kernel is also removed. The remains are then dried and ground into powder as it is mostly starch.
Why is this corn starch-modified then? There are some situations that corn starch cannot withstand. For example, corn starch cannot tolerate high temperatures. It will just break down. Modifying it then can enable it to withstand high temperatures. As a gelling agent or thickener, it helps food to keep their texture, even when they are heated.
There are basically two ways of creating modified corn starch. The first is an
During the acid modification, the corn starch is mixed with water. Thereafter it is heated and treated with a mild acid. As soon as the starch properties have reached the desired level, the acid will neutralize, leaving the starch to be filtered, washed and dried.
During modification by oxidation oxidizing agents are used such as chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate, or sodium hypochlorite.
This modified substance can be used as food thickeners, emulsifiers, and stabilizers in several commercial foods. Also, it can act as pill binders AND fiber supplements.
WHY IS IT BAD?
Despite its wide use, modified corn starch is known to have adverse effects, especially in children. Research has shown that consumption of modified starch, especially in infants can lead to an increase in loose stools and in most cases, diarrhea.
Also, cases arose where people with gluten sensitivity reacted negatively to this substance. Although there has not been any medical link between the two, it is very advisable for people who are allergic to gluten to stay away from modified corn starch.
Studies have also shown that intake of modified corn starches can cause flatulence, the accumulation of gas in the alimentary canal and bloating of the abdomen, which makes humans feel very uncomfortable.
HOW DOES IT END UP IN PRODUCTS?
It is obvious that it is not naturally occurring. Food manufacturers and producers put this substance in products to act as thickeners, sort of a food additive as it has no nutritive value.
PRODUCTS IT IS FOUND IN
It often acts as emulsifiers in products like canned soups, low-fat ice cream, candy, instant pudding and desserts, foods that are powder coated like cocoa-dusted almond, liquid cheese, gravy, salad dressing, infant formula, baby food, and some medications.
HOW TO IDENTIFY MODIFIED CORN FOOD STARCH ON LABELS
It is essential that you inspect the label of the product carefully and ensure that it is gluten-free. Also, look out for the modified corn starch on the ingredient section of that product.
Although there has been no strong link between the substance and any life-threatening disease, it is advisable to use it moderately. When chemicals need to be added to your food that adds virtually no nutritional value, it is reason enough to avoid it if possible.