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Modified starch, also called starch derivatives, are prepared by physically, enzymatically, or chemically treating native starch to change its properties. Modified starches are used in practically all starch applications, such as in food products as a thickening agent, stabilizer or emulsifier; in pharmaceuticals as a disintegrant; as binder in coated paper. They are also used in many other applications.
Starches are modified to enhance their performance in different applications. Starches may be modified to increase their stability against excessive heat, acid, shear, time, cooling, or freezing; to change their texture; to decrease or increase their viscosity; to lengthen or shorten gelatinization time; or to increase their visco-stability.
Acid-treated starch (INS 1401), also called thin boiling starch, is prepared by treating starch or starch granules with inorganic acids, e.g. hydrochloric acid breaking down the starch molecule and thus reducing the viscosity.
Other treatments producing modified starch (with different INS and E-numbers) are:
and combined modifications such as
Modified starch may also be a cold water soluble, pregelatinized or instant starch which thickens and gels without heat, or a cook-up starch which must be cooked like regular starch. Drying methods to make starches cold water soluble are extrusion, drum drying or spray drying.
Pre-gelatinized starch is used to thicken instant desserts, allowing the food to thicken with the addition of cold water or milk. Similarly, cheese sauce granules (such as in Macaroni and Cheese or lasagna) or gravy granules may be thickened with boiling water without the product going lumpy. 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.
A suitably modified starch is used as a fat substitute for low-fat versions of traditionally fatty foods, e.g., reduced-fat hard salami having about 1/3 the usual fat content. For such uses, it is an alternative to the product Olestra.
Modified starch is added to frozen products to prevent them from dripping when defrosted. Modified starch, bonded with phosphate, allows the starch to absorb more water and keeps the ingredients together. Modified starch acts as an emulsifier for French dressing by enveloping oil droplets and suspending them in the water. Acid-treated starch forms the shell of jelly beans. Oxidized starch increases the stickiness of batter.
Modified starch has been confused with genetically modified starch, which refers to starch from genetically engineered plants, such as those that have been genetically modified to produce novel fatty acids or carbohydrates which might not occur in the plant species being harvested. In the United States the term can also refer to foods that have been created by traditional cross-breeding rather than gene splicing.[dubious ] In Europe the term "Genetically Modified Organism" is used solely where "the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally through fertilisation and/or natural recombination". The modification in "genetically modified" refers to the genetic engineering of the plant DNA, whereas in the term "Modified Starch" seen on mandatory ingredient labels it refers to the later processing or treatment of the starch or starch granules.
Genetically modified starch is of interest in the manufacture of biodegradable polymers and noncellulose feedstock in the paper industry, as well as the creation of new food additives although there is growing concern and controversy regarding the safety of consuming genetically modified organisms and the impact they may have on the environment, and on native plant species.