It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Can you tell me anything about modified food starch/modified corn starch? It is in almost every type of commercially prepared food.

Is this a product that many people are allergic/sensitive to? I strongly suspect that I have an allergy to the modified starches, but I am not able to find any information about them.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Modified food starches are used in many processed foods today. These are highly processed, fine granular powders made from any number of sources, including wheat, corn and tapioca. They are used in foods as thickening agents and to help emulsify ingredients. Because there's no requirement to list the source of the starch, it could be made from any of these ingredients.

Generally speaking these are safe products. The most common food starch is cornstarch (also known as cornflour). That said, foods that use modified starches are generally very highly processed. If it is listed as one of the ingredients, you might consider whether it would be more healthy to make the item from scratch.

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet