Food starches are modified to make them easier to use in certain recipes.
Modified starch has many uses in food products, including:
- Making a product easier to dissolve in cold water or milk for instant gelatinised recipes, e.g. to thicken instant desserts.
- Helping powdered foods, like powdered cheese sauce and gravy, have a less lumpy consistency when mixed, e.g. in macaroni and cheese or lasagne and gravy granules. Commercial pizza toppings containing modified starch will thicken when heated in the oven, keeping them on top of the pizza, and then become runny when cooled.
- Serving as a fat substitute for low-fat versions of traditionally fatty foods, e.g. reduced-fat salami has about a third of the usual fat content.
- Preventing frozen products from dripping when defrosted. Modified starch, bonded with phosphate, allows the starch to absorb more water and keeps the ingredients together.
- Acting as an emulsifier for salad dressings in order to keep oils from separating.
- Forming a hard shell on some candies like jelly beans.
- Acting as a thickener for soups and increasing the stickiness of batter.
- Producing foods with longer shelf lives.
Because starches are modified for so many different reasons, you may find them in a variety of foods: chips, canned soups, instant desserts, low-fat ice cream, cheese sauces, powder-coated foods such as cocoa-dusted almonds and candy. You may also find modified starches within the shell capsules of vitamin and mineral supplements and some medications.
Written by Victoria Trowse