The obscure starches in baby food

Modified food starches are used extensively in cereal formulation for infants and young children. The digestibility of these starches also undergo alterations during the chemical and physical modification process.

Food starches are modified to provide specific characteristic for commercial food formulations. They are used to stabilize the suspended food particles, increase thickness, enhance homogeneity, and improve shelf life.

Issues with consumption of modified food starches:

  • Poor bio availability of the starch. These starches may not be well digested
  • Undigested starch can lead to gastric problems such as diarrhoea, malabsorption, etc
  • Modified food starches (especially wheat based) can also lead to intolerance such as gluten sensitivity resulting in crohn’s disease
  • May have mutagenic and carcinogenic properties imparted by the chemical processing used to prepare modified food starch

The Infant Formula Directive states that only precooked starch and gelatinized starch (naturally free of gluten) may be used as modified food starches in infant formulae with a quantity of not more than 2 g/100 mL of formula and these starches should provide no more than 30% of the total carbohydrate content.

Using these starches in cereals for infants and young children can be very detrimental as there are still many concerns regarding their bio availability, effect on nutrient absorption, intestinal changes, and toxic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic effects. In the absence of long-term studies showing effect of these starches on the human digestive system, it is better to exercise caution with consumption of these


Sophie Lanciere,  Devendra I. Mehta, Uwe Blecker, Emanuel Lebenthal Modified food starches in baby foods The Indian Journal of Pediatrics  July 1998, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 541–546


Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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