Modified Food Starch

In your list of allowed ingredients, modified food starch is listed as allowed if it’s not made from wheat and, according to you, the label will state if it is. I blinked a few times, scoffed, and then decided to trust the advice. I bought a can of Campbell’s bean with bacon soup, which lists modified food starch, but no wheat. So I ate it. That was a mistake. I have a headache and my gut is feeling achy. I think it might be advisable to modify (heh) the advice, giving it only a cautious nod, because Campbell’s doesn’t mention allergens on their labels, neither does Heinz ketchup or KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce. I’m going to go back to giving a wide berth to products with the ambiguous modified food starch listing. It’s just not worth it.

Like every other food company regulated by the FDA, Campbell’s is required to list the top eight allergens, including wheat, on its food labels. So if they use modified wheat starch, the label has to say either “modified wheat starch” or “modified food starch” as well as the phrase “contains wheat” at the end of the ingredients list. There is nothing ambiguous about it and no evidence that any companies are skirting the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, which has been in effect since January 2006. If wheat is in a product, its presence will be noted on the label. From the labeled ingredients, the soup appears to be gluten free. The last few ingredients on the list are “less than two percent of modified food starch, salt, sugar, onion powder, monosodium glutamate, yeast extract, natural smoke flavoring.” That wording is a bit ambiguous in terms of the two percent, but we read it as two percent of all those ingredients together not two percent each. Either way, it’s not modified wheat starch. However, Campbell’s does not include the bean with bacon soup on its new gluten- free product list (U.S., Canada). Broths are the only soups on the list. On its website Campbell’s says it is testing all finished products. That means those with gluten-free ingredients could be left off the list due to cross-contamination. We contacted Campbell’s to find out why they do not consider the bean with bacon soup gluten free but did not get a response. It’s also a mistake to blame symptoms on gluten when they could be caused by any number of things. You might have consumed something a bit “off” with the soup or have a stomach bug or allergies . . . the list could go on. There’s a lot going on that surrounds the food industry and has nothing to do with gluten as well as illnesses and germs and sometimes it’s just too wearisome to think about. Our chances of ever getting to the bottom of some of these headachy experiences are slim. But one thing you can be sure of is wheat labeling— or lack of same. If you see wheat on a food label, the product contains wheat. If you don’t, the product does not contain wheat. It may not be gluten free or contaminant free, but it does not contain wheat.

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3 thoughts on “Modified Food Starch

  1. After I had my Endoscopy, I was diagnosed with Celia Disease. My doctor said to go on a gluten free diet: wheat, rye, barley, and oats (that aren’t labeled gluten free). He also said to not eat any food that contained Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). I instantly felt better, but was still in the healing process. I was disappointed that my favorite tomato soup from Campbell’s contained MSG in it. So I would recommend staying away from that.

  2. Yeast extract can be made with barley which is not an allergen that is required to be listed on labels but is not gluten free. Wheat is the only gluten containing allergen required to be listed on labels but it is not the only gluten containing grain. As far as I know there are no celiac safe Campbell’s products. Just because there are no gluten containing ingredients does not mean a product is gluten free. A food starch made on the same equipment with gluten containing ingredients could be free of the allergen wheat but still contain enough gluten to cause a reaction.

  3. I have to disagree with the absolute standpoint of the first answerer. Having worked in the food production industry, I worked on the labelling side. There are a lot of regulations controlling the labelling of a product, and in reality, it is really hard to keep up with (considering, you as a labeller have to be in lock-step with your supply chain (hint: sources and ingredients often change)).

    Would Campbells’ have been nice enough to go through the extra expense to produce new labels just for the starch ingredient (“after all,” they would probably argue, “it is only a little bit”). So I can see the business decision in a lot of this. For some Campbell’s plants, it might be easier, cheaper to get wheat-based stuff. Maybe it’s even seasonal thing. The supply chain manager of that plant might not be as informed, or on top the reg’s as they should be (or maybe don’t care). Not that anything shady is even going on (which it very well could be) it is just that, in reality the logistics of putting the right label on your product, especially when sourced with so many “cheap fillers” (let’s face it, such starches are junk additives, that quality products don’t need).

    So, the truth is, they have to label properly, no exceptions, it is the law. But in reality, the FDA has the power of a stream of urine in a hurricane.

    I would advise to trust ingredients and stay away from all of that additive stuff (people who don’t have the condition don’t understand that even 1% of a concentrated, “modified” wheat source can be just harmful as wheat flour.

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