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The Use of Modified Starches In The Food Processing Industry

Ridgwell (2001, p. 63) defines modified starches as one of the many ingredients that are found in certain food products and are mostly used as thickeners in prepared soups, hot drinks, as well as sauces. Modified starches are likewise called as that because there were several processes made that were done in order to change or “correct” some part of the starch which will then allow it to exhibit the same properties that is needed by the food preparation all the time.

However, it does not mean that they are in any way genetically modified; these starches were just chemically or physically altered so that they could be used the way that they are in food preparations. Somogyi (2001, p. 477) adds that modified starches are usually found in processed food preparations that are mostly subjected to processes where normal, unmodified starch could not do relatively well.

They are used in several food products such as processed baby food, purees, confectioneries, prepared jellies, instant cake mixes, premade dough, several soup mixes in powdered form and those in liquid form in cans, instant noodles, premade desserts like puddings, canned pie fillings, ready to prepare batter mixes, prepared sauces, prepared salad dressings, dairy desserts like ice cream, certain snack foods and in canned food.

Modified starches serve as either “binders” or “extenders” in various processed meat products like sausages, cured hams and luncheon meat. Modified starches could also be used as fat substitutes for various margarine-like spreads, prepared salad dressings, cookies and other baked products. Wurzburg (1995, p. 67) states that because of these properties, modified starches are more readily used in processed foods, due to its many advantages over traditional starchy foods that are used in such food preparations like potatoes or even tapioca.

Traditional starchy food preparations like these impart a sometimes unpalatable gooey texture to food. They also react in the presence of different types of food such as those which are acidic. In these kinds of food preparation, traditional starches lose some of their characteristics which made them ideal for being used in the first place. Storage and temperature also contribute to the traditional starches losing their characteristics, or sometimes changing them for the worse.

These are some of the reasons why modified starches are readily used in food processing. However, one must take note that there could be still modified food starches that are not fit for human consumption, as these modified food starches are subject to rigorous testing and certification from relevant and authorized government offices.

Because of their nature, modified starches are used in these food preparations in order to preserve its quality. Early (1998, p. 328) adds that it is due to these different properties that starches are then used in a variety of food preparations, and with different types of these starches are employed in the food industry, and not just for preserving the quality of the processed food, but also used in order for it to add nutritional value to the food, and even contribute to its aesthetic value. Modified starch is a form of “smart” food material, which is considered different than what one could expect from ordinary starches used in cooking (Booker, Monks, Roberts & Stafford 2004, p.

37). “Smart” food materials are basically kinds of food material that have been altered either chemically or physically so as to make sure that the said material only works in a certain way (Mottershead, Woods & Jupe 2003, p. 56). These could include letting the said food material behave in a certain way when subjected to temperatures that are at either ends of the temperature spectrum. These reactions however could only be brought about by the specific processes which were made in mind when the food material was altered (Winson, 2003, p. 61).

Winson adds that specific modified starches could be used as needed in different processed foods, such as processed instant foods, premade sauces, premade meals, no-cook meals, and the like. Booker et al. have also stated that smart materials have been altered specifically, wilfully, in order for that specific material to behave the way food manufacturers want it to behave, and so different starches and techniques used to create these modified starches bring about different results, according to their liking and according to where they will use it for.

Types of Modified Starches Lineback (1999, pp. 123 – 124) has identified several of the starches used that are then modified in order to fit their new roles in the processed foods to which they are added. They include the normal maize, tapioca, potato, and the waxy maize variety. He also lists several of the many processes that are done in order to create these modified starches. They include dextrenization, acid-hydrolysis, oxidation, cross-linking, monosubstitution by means of esterification as well as etherification, and sometimes, even a series of these processes done together in order to create the said modified starch.

These modified starches are under the careful supervision of the Food and Drug Administration, and are also bound by the Code or Federal Regulations (21CFR 172. 892). It is only once they are approved by the FDA that modified starches could then be added into food preparations. It is due to this reason that modified starches get it very difficult to be approved – it takes a lot of time and money just so that they would finally be approved for human consumption.

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