Modified Food Starch Demystified

by Cassidy Stockton in Featured Articles, Health

Modified Food Starch is made by physically, enzymatically or chemically altering starch to change its inherent properties. In this instance, modified does not necessarily mean genetically modified, however some modified starches are likely made from genetically modified ingredients. Modified starches are typically used in foods for the same reasons as conventional starches—thickening, stabilizing or emulsifying. Some of the properties gained by changing the original starch can include the ability to stand different temperatures (excessive heat, freezing, etc), increase the shelf life of the desired property (for example, it will keep thickening the sauce for a longer time than its conventional counterpart), alter their thickening ability and shorten the thickening time (for example a modified starch may thicken a sauce much faster than its conventional counterpart).

The most common types of modified food starch are made from corn, wheat, potato and tapioca. Typically labels will list the source from which the starch was modified as Modified Corn Starch, however unless it is derived from one of the top eight allergens (in this case wheat), it is not required by law to be listed this way. Most modified starches are gluten free, except for those that use wheat starch as a base. There is some controversy about whether modified wheat starch really does contain gluten, however. Our opinion? Why risk it?

Modified starches are often used in foods that promote themselves as “instant” and in foods that might need a certain temperature to thicken (during cooking or freezing). Think of gravy packets, instant puddings, and those meals that come in a box and require a minimum amount of cooking or simply need boiling water. These days you can find modified starch in almost every processed food. Check the ingredient lists- it’s there.

We hope this helps clear up a little label confusion for you. If you have any more label mysteries that you’d like us to solve, tell us in the comments.

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Cassidy Stockton Google: Cassidy Stockton
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64 Responses to “Modified Food Starch Demystified”

    • Our products do not contain modified starches. At Bob’s Red Mill, we have made a commitment to purchase only non-GMO grains. All of our products are made from ingredients that were grown from identity-preserved, non-GMO seed. For more information about our GMO policy, please call our customer service team: 1-800-349-2173.

  1. These “people” pushing GMO are loving to twist words out of their meaning. So to call it modified starch is just fun for them. Also they like to put natural additives into the e-number list. So if you point out that some food contains a lot of additives they say “So what? Lemon is also an additive”. I am so sick and tired of watching more and more food containing less natural ingredients. Some experiments test animals only got fed gmo and they were unable to reproduce after just a few generation. Say no to GMO

  2. Carole A. Brown

    I have found that I get diarrhea from modified starches. I’ve learned to check labels and not get a product that has anything modified in it.

    BTW–I really like your granolas. They’re much more like the kind I used to buy in the 1970’s. If you check the grocery store granolas, they have 3-4 kinds of sugar!

    • Have you found anyone else who has reactions to modified starches, or doctors who’ve treated others who are sensitive to them? I have a son who has a food allergy to modified food starches (throat closes, dizzy, diarrhea, etc) and I cannot find anyone else with the same issue, or doctors who’ve seen it. I know there must be others out there. Thanks.

    • Joan Richardson

      I get severe Migraine headache with the aura so it is hard to see. It is in so many foods. I can’t eat High Fructose either. Are they close?

    • Joan,

      I’m sorry, but we do not know enough about modified food starch and high fructose corn syrup to be able to tell you if you can eat them. They are very different products, so I’m not sure if I would consider them ‘close’.

    • Dear Carole, My Husband always gets diarrhea after eating food with modified wheat starch. I do not react that way but get bloated and gassy. I stopped using products with this. Bob Red Mills Potato starch I use and it seems to have cured the problem.

  3. I’m very happy to have read the comment from Cassidy ” At Bob’s Red Mill, we have made a commitment to purchase only non-GMO grains. All of our products are made from ingredients that were grown from identity-preserved, non-GMO seed. ” That being the case, why are your products, at least the ones I’ve used, not labeled as such. I would think most consumers would be happy to see your product is GMO free. I actually stopped using your brand when I become more concerned about GMO foods and I wasn’t sure if Bob’s red mill products were GMO or not. I just assumed they were because I was told if something is not organic or labeled as GMO free than it probably is a GMO product. I will happily go back to using your brand again. Thank you!

  4. I have a question. You said that, “At Bob’s Red Mill, we have made a commitment to purchase only non-GMO grains. All of our products are made from ingredients that were grown from identity-preserved, non-GMO seed.” From my understanding, wheat has been genetically modified and dwarfed since the 60’s and has a very high glycemic index and is highly addictive. Are your wheat grain products identity preserved from before this time?

    • That’s a terrific question, thank you! We rely on the Non-GMO Project’s definition of GMOs which states, “GMOs (or ‘genetically modified organisms’) are organisms that have been created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. ( In light of that definition, our wheat grain products’ identity-preservation precedes the 1960s.

  5. Recently, I have begun to suspect I have an intolerance for modified food starch, and modified corn starch. I had thought I might be gluten intolerant, but have noticed a stronger correlation to food containing modified starches than to those containing gluten. Is intolerance to modified starches common?

    • daniel fredenthal

      Cherie. Most of your queries can be answered just by reading the life changing book, Grain Brain by MD David Perl utter. The surprising truth about west, carbs, and sugar

    • I have a son who is allergic to modified food starch (throat closes, diarrhea, dizzy, headache) and haven’t come across anyone else or any doctors who have seen allergies or intolerance to modified food starches. Are you still having the problem? Have you found anyone else who has it or has treated it? Thank you.

    • My daughter cannot eat modified food starch or high fructose corn syrup (or any corn based item) because they are both derived from corn. Modified Food Strach is usually from corn in the US because it is much cheaper due to the high availability of corn.

  6. Cherie
    For years I have had a problem digesting any white food:i.e. white bread, potatoes, white rice, white pasta, anything with white flour. Now my problem of bloating and tummy ache is getting worse and seems to be linked to modified starch which appears to be in everything: baked beans, ice cream, custard, gravy etc.
    My doctor does not believe me, has checked me for coeliac (negative) and just keeps telling me its IBS.
    I think a lot of people are intolerant to ‘modified starch’. Why won’t anybody listen to me and believe me. I am a Yoga teacher and know my own body. I hear you!

    • hi i have been found to have an intolerance to modified starch and all starches that are used as an addictive BUT i am not intolerant to wheat or gluten. i had many years with what the doctors thought was IBS but i discovered it was the modified starch and now i avoid it altogether and my life has changed for the better, cant believe its in so many foods . marks and spencers in the uk have started flagging it up on the outside along with gluten and wheat which is a step forward

    • My doctor does not believe me, has checked me for coeliac (negative) and just keeps telling me its IBS.
      What you describe sounds exactly like IBS that’s being triggered by modified food starch. I would go back to your doctor so you can seek the correcdt treatment.
      FYI, I know about IBS because I have it, except mine is triggered by processed cheese and dextrose.

  7. She McKay,

    I have a very similar reaction to the foods you mentioned. It could be one of two things: either a gluten intolerance (which is not a positive celiac), or a gut/flora imbalance. Have you ever tried either the Specific Carbohydrate Diet or the GAPS diet? They are both very healing to individuals with your set of symptoms. Good luck.:) (Btw. Bob’s Red Mill makes Almond Meal Flour and Coconut Flour which are staples in SCD and GAPS baking).

  8. I have had trouble with wheat gluten for years and didn’t realize it until doing some research. Almost two years ago, I started a gluten-free diet. I have lost about fifty pounds as a result and my stomach is much better now. I have come to realize that being intolerant of wheat would also trigger sensitivities to other foods as I can eat those foods once again.

    I also found that I do not tolerate corn or oats either. I basically use only rice and rice flour out of all the grains. I do tolerate tapioca and potato starch. Coconut flour is also good. I have used BOB’S products many times.

    I wasn’t aware of the non-GMO for BOB’S products. Thanks for letting us know 🙂

  9. I think I know why you have problems with your intestines. Modified food starch increases the level of lysophosphatidylcholine in the starch. It is okay in small amounts in our body, but large amounts demyelinate and cause lesions. Please come read “Food starch-modified, modified coconut oil, vaccines, and oats” at my blog at

    Thanks Bob’s for offering quality products that help us heal.

  10. Arrowroot Starch/Flour question: Is a microscopic analysis done on your Arrowroot starch/flour to determine if it is pure arrowroot …not tapioca starch of some form (or a mixture of…)?

    I’ve been reading that a lot of arrowroot S/F is not really the pure product (essentially tapioca starch) and that manufacturers such as yourself must test it to be sure it is. I’d really like some confirmation that your product is the pure arrowroot before I purchase more. You have a lot of great products so I imagine you can easily confirm this. Thank you.

  11. I’d like to know in regards to your Arrowroot Starch and your “Bean” flours if it has any cornstarch added to it or some remnants in it from your facility? Also, any soy as well. It doesn’t mention if it is organic, so how are the Arrowroot plants and Beans treated. Are they treated with synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

    I am interested in your products, but have allergies and need to know before I start using them. Thank you very much for your time! : )

    • Charlea,

      Our bean flours and arrowroot starch do not contain any cornstarch, nor are they organic. They use conventional farming practices, so it is possible that pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used. Please give us a call at 800-349-2173 for more information.

  12. I would like to know if a boxed cereal contains GMO modified “corn” starch, and there are no GMO oat products, (because there are no GMO oats) and a company states that they will no longer use GMO’s in certain products, would that mean that they are simply using a non GMO corn starch? I am asking this because I know that 88% of all corn is GMO corn. I would guess that would include all of the by-products from the GMO corn, right?

    • Greg,

      I can’t be certain, because it’s hard to guess what circular logic might be going on at the big corps, but my guess is that if they are saying they are no longer using GMOs and the only questionable item is cornstarch, they are looking at a non-GMO cornstarch. If the corn in question is a GMO, it’s byproducts (like starch) would also be GMO. Hope this helps.

  13. Please let me know,
    how I can thicken the water a natural way.
    My mother has swallowing problem.
    Thank you.


    • Margaret,

      We are not sure. You could try adding xanthan gum to the liquid and see if you can get it thick enough for her to swallow. I’m sorry that we don’t have a solid answer for you.

  14. Christine Hambleton

    Margaret- if your mom can tolerate a small amount of laxative in her diet, you might try a small amount of ground psyllium seed in her water. Left to sit in the water for ten minutes or so, the seed will thicken the water, or actually expand in the water. Experiment. God bless.

  15. Hi Cassidy (or anyone). My question is: without the precaution of natural occurring allergens (as in nuts, wheat, etc), is Modified Food Starch SAFE to consume/eat, as it is found as a preservative in many foods?

  16. Is carrageenan used in any of your products? Also, to commentor, ms McKay, you may want to look up the possible effects of that substance (common in many products) on your digestive system.

  17. Wonderful to hear about your wheat grain products being pre-60’s. I will begin using your products non-stop. Last year I tried no-wheat diet and those extra pounds I’d always wanted to lose fell off. Read “Wheat Belly.” Please label your products as such! I have little doubt that this will increase the demand for your products. Possibly with high volume and no change to the product, the volume increase will help make the price affordable for more people to use and become more healthy. Thank you for presenting the information in usable, understandable form. Are there a lot of hoops to jump in order to tag or label your product? Meris Robison

  18. Hi there, I have been enjoying reading your responses to inquiries about food starch. My children have FPIES (Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome). This is a type of allergy that can lead to hospitalization from vomiting and diarrhea. There is no reversal once triggered so avoidance is the only way to live healthfully. In the age of food allergies I find it infuriating that “food starch” isn’t described more specifically ie) Rice starch or Corn Starch. We are also allergic to Rice and Oats. In any event, can you please explain to me the chemical components of food starch? In other words, is there any food protein at all in food starch?

  19. Hello Cassidy,

    So, is Bob’s Red Mill “Potato Starch” and enzyme modified food starch?

    I have been using another cosmetic ingredient company’s “modified food starch” for years, but find that their price has tripled in the last year, and am looking for an alternative.
    I may just imagine it, but I find “modified food starch” easier to incorporate into lotion at a lower temperature than when I use regular food starch.
    With kind regards.

  20. Trying to find the right thickening agent for our New England Creamy Clam chowder. We would like to be able to freeze but find that Roux separates. It has been suggested that we try Modified Food Starch, but find it thins upon cooling. Corn Starch reacts very simular. Any suggestions?

  21. For Cassidy – I have found that using instant potato’s in my clam chowder will indeed thicken the soup very nicely. Check your labels on the type you may use. I am a rabid label reader and have ‘trained’ my husband, who had a short hospital stay last year due to a heart innocent to do the same. It flabbergasts me the amount of Sodium in any/all foods purchased in markets!! We truly are what we eat.

  22. hi have a completely different question about modified starch. i make savoury pies which i sell to restaurants, and i want to use modified starch for the gravy and chicken sauce, as my pies are frozen. i have tried to mix with cold water and i have tried with hot water, but both ways my sauces go very lumpy, what is the best way to mix it?

    • I’m sorry, but we aren’t sure. We don’t sell modified starch. I would imagine it would work the same way as regular starch, though. Start with a slurry of a small amount of liquid and the starch. Mix until the starch is dissolved, then add the slurry to the rest of the liquid ingredients.

  23. Hi,
    I saw in 2013 you said that you do not buy
    gmo grains. I just bought several bags of your arrowroot powder. Is it genetically modified? It does not say non-GMO.

    Thank you for your help in this.


  24. Hello, have a question and I cannot seem to find any answers. So thank you in advance for your help. I purchased an unsweetened coconut coffee and the ingredients include coconut, columbian coffee, maltodextrin and starch. The claims are that this coffee is so healthy. its delicious however, the starch worries me. Can you please give me some insight on whether starch derived from a non GMO corn is safe. Its still starch and I guess I don’t know enough to have piece of mind. Thank you again!

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