Modified starch – the reasons it’s not harmful
Unfortunately the notion “modified” is associated with genetic modification (GMO) in consumer’s mind. Mass media also regularly contributes misperception of the consumer in his attempts to understand label content. Some terms like E-code additives and other unknown terms are always quoted by mass media with negative context. That is the reason why the consumer is becoming afraid of the products with such labels.
Such media campaign doesn’t benefit manufacturers. However in Russia we’ve got 20 types of modified starches certified for food industry application. And the aim of this article is to clarify if modified starches and GMO products are the same.
Physics and chemistry against genetics
Firstly let’s clarify the term “modification”. There are many ways to modify the product. When we talk about the starches we do not suppose genetic effect to the raw material (potato, rice, corn). The starch (modified or not) is derived from native raw material – corn, potato and etc. - and then it is being physically and chemically modified. All modifications are being performed with starch molecule but not with its genome.
What is the starch being modified for?
Native starch has numerous technological limitations – it’s not stable to high temperature, mechanical effects and low acidity. Also the final product made with native starch has very short shelf life. Therefore modification is performed to eliminate the limitations and adjust the starch to the actual market requirements.
Modified starches properties
Modified starches are being applied in industry with the same aim as non-modified native starches. Filler, jelling agent, stabilizer – the function of the raw material is still the same. Additional modification just improves some starch properties.
Two types of modification are most commonly performed nowadays: cross-linking and stabilization. And usually they are implemented together.
Cross-linking makes the starch firm to the temperature treatment, mechanical effect and low pH thus completely adapting the starch to the standard food production requirements.
Stabilization makes the starch sustainable for longer shelf life, for storage temperature variation and therefore customizes the starch to the modern market requirements, especially to the product requirements specified by retail companies.
Combination of various types of modification degree provides absolutely flexible approach to the selection of the starch so it could be extremely workable and efficient for each particular purpose.
Specifying all advantages of modified starches in this article doesn’t make sense. Understanding that modification process itself doesn’t have anything in common with genetic mutation is much more important.