Cultured Wheat Starch
- GLUTEN ALLERGY
- WHEAT ALLERGY
Cultured wheat starch is a natural mold inhibitor that can be added to bread dough as a natural preservative. Although the term or approved label verbiage “cultured wheat starch” is confusing and doesn’t accurately describe the ingredient. Basically, it is the starting base product of this ingredient. Cultured wheat starch is a fermented product in which the desired functional food product is what is obtained from that fermentation. The wheat starch is the carbohydrate source in which water, a culture, probably a lactic acid-type bacteria, is added and a fermentation is allowed to occur. The end product is a collection of metabolites produced by the microbe. Most certainly, many types of metabolites are produced; including acids such as lactic, propionic, and other organic acids.
As far as labeling goes, it is impossible to declare all the metabolites produced in this fermentation, thus the term “cultured wheat starch” is used. In addition, the microbes used to ferment the starch do not have to be listed on the food ingredient label. This is a comparable situation to cheese, for example. The microbes used to make cheese are not listed on the cheese ingredient label. This is most likely due to the fact that you are not consuming the microorganism in the food product, but instead are consuming a product that is the result of the action (fermentation) of microorganisms. Often times, the type of microorganism used is proprietary, but be assured, these microorganisms must be from the family of lactic acid bacteria that are approved for the use in foods.
Cultured wheat starch is sold as a free-flowing powder that can be easily added to bread dough. One commercial product is called Mold-Out®, produced by the American Casein Company. This all-natural mold inhibitor adds many other functional advantages for the producer and the consumer. It helps control pH of the dough and helps with stabilizing the dough structure. In some cases, less yeast can be used, due to the advantage of optimal pH conditions. A big plus for the consumer is that the use of cultured wheat starch eliminates the necessity of using chemical preservatives in bread. Manufactures can market their products as preservative free, which means, it doesn’t contain chemical or artificial preservatives.
Other Use and Industries
Cultured wheat starch is generally regarded as safe (GRAS status). The metabolites or fermentates produced by the lactic acid bacteria are safe, and actually are natural products. We probably already consume these metabolites in the many naturally fermented foods we eat. The only difference with these products is that the metabolites are concentrated, can be mixed with a carrier (maltodextrin), and added to foods that are not typically fermented. It is the same as adding the benefits of fermented foods to non-fermented products. Using cultured wheat starch to replace chemical preservatives is another benefit as many preservatives are under much scrutiny.
The food safety aspect or preservative effect of cultured wheat starch is a great health benefit. Its proven effectiveness in preventing or slowing growth of food spoilage organisms, such as molds, can be a health benefit.
The negative side of cultured wheat starch is that the true identity of the product is hidden behind a general labeling term that doesn’t accurately describe the ingredient. Marketing agendas and lobbyists most likely influenced the labeling regulations of this product. But even though this is the case, the fact that this is a natural preservative negates any bad marketing tricks.
Cultured wheat starch or Mold-Out®, is produced by the fermentation of wheat starch with a lactic acid-type bacteria. The actual microbes used to ferment starch can be proprietary, but there are limits as to the types of microbes that can be used. Cultured wheat starch is produced by adding water to starch to make a slurry. A prepared culture is added to the slurry and the mixture is allowed to ferment. Once the fermentation is complete, the product is dried and milled back to powder form. To help the fermentation, distilled vinegar and other ingredients can be added.