Modified corn starch is just regular corn starch that’s been changed in order to alter its characteristics and performance and is used mostly in cooking and food manufacturing. Regular corn starch itself is a powder made from the starchy part of corn kernels. The “modified” part of the name refers to various processes that change its properties, such as how it reacts to heat, cold, and other ingredients.

These modifications are done using methods such as heat treatment or altered chemically by adding certain acids or enzymes to change the structure. Modifying corn starch in these ways make the starch more useful in different situations. For example, it might be modified to dissolve more easily in cold water, to become thicker more quickly, or to remain stable in foods that are frozen and then reheated.

This makes modified corn starch useful in many products as it helps to improve texture, consistency, and shelf life. It’s commonly found in items like soups, sauces, and ready meals, as well as in non-food products like adhesives and textiles. However, there is usually a health drawback to excessive processing, especially when added to foods.

What is Modified Corn Starch Made Of

As mentioned above, modified corn starch is made out of corn because there are some situations that corn starch by itself cannot withstand.

Modified corn starch can include any of the following additional ingredients:

  1. Acids – such as hydrochloric or sulfuric acid is used to break down the starch molecules and change their size and solubility.
  2. Alkalis – like sodium hydroxide is to make the starch more resistant to high temperatures and shear.
  3. Oxidizing agents – such as hydrogen peroxide is used to alter the texture and stability.
  4. Enzymes that rearrange the starch molecules for specific characteristics, like quicker thickening.
  5. Cross-linking agents (like phosphorus oxychloride) that create chemical bonds between starch molecules, enhancing stability and viscosity.

Why Is Modified Corn Starch Bad?

While modified corn starch isn’t inherently “bad” per se and it has useful properties, there are some very valid concerns about its use, especially when used in foods. The following are some reasons why some people might consider it less desirable:

  1. Digestive Issues: Modified corn starch may be hard to digest in some people especially children. This could be due to the chemical modifications it undergoes, which can affect how the body processes it. Individuals with sensitive stomachs or digestive conditions like IBS, should be especially cautious as consuming foods with modified starches can be worse if you have these illnesses.
  2. Allergies and Sensitivities: Since corn is a common allergen, it is wise to stay away from this product if you are allergic or sensitive. It is true that the modification removes most of the protein that causes allergic reactions but residual proteins might still remain.
  3. Nutritional Quality: There is very little nutritional value left after processing. When modified corn starch is added to your food it is not for nutritional value, its to help with texture in most cases. It contains mostly empty calories with minimal vitamins or minerals. Its presence in foods often indicates that the food is also highly processed.
  4. Impact on Blood Sugar: Like other starches, modified corn starch can have a high glycemic index, which means it can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. This can be a concern for people managing diabetes or those trying to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
  5. Artificial Ingredients: The chemical processes used to modify corn starch often involve additives that some people prefer to avoid in their diet, particularly those following a whole food or clean eating lifestyle.
  6. Overuse in Processed Foods: Modified corn starch is commonly in processed foods, and its overuse can be a part of broader dietary patterns that rely heavily on processed ingredients, which might not be the healthiest choice.

It’s worth noting that moderate consumption of modified corn starch as part of a balanced diet is generally considered safe for most people. However, if someone is concerned about its effects or has specific dietary restrictions, they might choose to avoid it.

What Foods or Products is Modified Corn Starch Found In?

Here are some of the common products where you might find modified corn starch:

  1. Processed Foods: It’s often used in processed foods as a thickener, stabilizer, or emulsifier. Examples include soups, sauces, gravies, salad dressings, and frozen meals.
  2. Baked Goods: Modified corn starch helps to retain moisture and improve texture in products like cakes, cookies, and pastries.
  3. Dairy Products: It’s used in yogurt, puddings, and some types of cheese to improve texture and viscosity.
  4. Confections: Modified corn starch is used in candies and chewing gum to control texture and stability.
  5. Beverages: It can be found in powdered drink mixes and some alcoholic beverages where it acts as a stabilizer or clarifier.
  6. Gluten-free Products: Because it’s gluten-free, modified corn starch is a common ingredient in many gluten-free breads, pastas, and other products to improve texture and moisture retention.
  7. Pharmaceuticals: It is used as a binder and filler in the production of tablets and capsules.
  8. Cosmetics: In beauty products, modified corn starch can be used as a thickener or to create a smooth texture in creams and lotions.
  9. Non-food Uses: Beyond food and pharmaceuticals, it’s also used in the textile and paper industries for its adhesive properties.

How To Identify Modified Corn Starch on Product Labels


Identifying modified corn starch on product labels is pretty easy once you know what terms to look for. Manufacturers are required to list all ingredients on food labels, so you can find modified corn starch listed directly under its common names or through specific labeling terms. Here are some ways it might be described:

  1. Direct Listing: The most straightforward is simply “modified corn starch.” It might also be listed as “modified food starch” if the source isn’t specified to be corn.
  2. By Process: Sometimes, the label might specify the type of modification process. For instance, it could say “acid-treated starch” or “bleached starch,” which are types of modified starches.
  3. E-Numbers: In some regions, like the European Union, food additives are listed by their E-number. Modified corn starch might appear as E1401, E1412, E1414, E1420, E1422, E1442, among others. These numbers denote different types of treatments the starch has undergone.
  4. Other Descriptive Terms: Occasionally, the label might use more generic terms like “food starch-modified” or “starch (modified),” especially if the starch could come from sources other than corn.

Where Can You Buy Modified Corn Starch

You can buy modified corn starch from a variety of places, depending on how much you need and what you plan to use it for. Here are some common sources:

  1. Grocery Stores: Many grocery stores carry modified corn starch, often found in the baking aisle alongside other thickening agents like regular corn starch and flour.
  2. Specialty Food Stores: If you’re looking for a specific type of modified corn starch (like one that’s non-GMO or made for a particular use), specialty food stores or health food stores might have more options.
  3. Online Retailers: Websites like Amazon, Walmart, and others offer a wide range of modified corn starch products. This can be a convenient option if you need a specific brand or type that isn’t available locally.
  4. Wholesale Suppliers: If you need modified corn starch in bulk, for either large-scale cooking or industrial purposes, you might consider purchasing it from a wholesale supplier or a distributor specializing in food additives.
  5. Pharmaceutical and Lab Supply Stores: For those who need modified corn starch for scientific or pharmaceutical purposes, specialized suppliers that sell chemicals and lab supplies often stock various types of modified starches.


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.