A dozen modified food starches used to make sauces and pie fillings have received regulatory backing after a re-evaluation found no safety concerns with levels currently used in food products.

Conclusions reached by the European and Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ruled that 12 modified starches (E 1404, E 1410, E 1412, E 1413, E 1414, E 1420, E 1422, E 1440, E 1442, E 1450, E 1451 and E 1452) could be authorised as food additives.

“Modified starches (i.e. E 1413, E 1414, E 1420, E 1450) were well tolerated in adults up to a single daily dose of 60,000 milligrams per person (mg/person) (860 mg/kg bw),” EFSA stated.

“The Panel concluded that there is no safety concern for the use of modified starches as food additives at the reported uses and use levels and that there is no need for a numerical acceptable daily intake (ADI).”

Absorption questions

There were concerns over the way modified starches were not absorbed intact posing distribution, metabolism and excretion issues in the human body that can result in toxic build-up.

However, supporting studies indicated that the two major components of starches, amylose and amylopectin, are fermented during their passage through the large intestine by strains of bacteria found in the human colon.

The main end products of this colonic anaerobic digestive process are short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as acetic, propionic and butyric acids, which are absorbed from the colon.

Despite the absence of data for two modified starches (E 1451 and E 1452) and the absence of in vivo studies in humans for other modified starches, the Panel were satisfied that modified starches were excreted via intestinal enzyme break down and intestinal microbiota fermentation.

Commercial starches are generally extracted from potatoes and cereals. Their value lies in their potential for modification in order to function properly under conditions encountered during processing or storage, such as high heat, low pH, freeze/thaw and cooling.

As an additive for food processing, food starches thicken and stabilize foods such as soups and salad dressings. They also function as thickeners, extenders, emulsion stabilizers and are strong binders in processed meats.