What Is This in My Food? Maltodextrin

“Do you know the source of maltodextrin in this chicken?” I asked the guy behind the deli counter.

“Maltodextrin is just sugar, it’s perfectly safe,” he said impatiently.

“But it comes from corn and sometimes wheat. I’m allergic to both.”

He shook his head as if I was speaking a different language, then he assisted the lady next to me.

I didn’t buy the chicken.

Maltodextrin is one of those ingredients that confuses me. Sometime it makes me sick, sometimes it doesn’t.  So today I decided to put on my sleuth hat and do a little investigating.

In terms fit for an allergic foodie who didn’t do well in science class, maltodextrin is simply a food additive produced from a starch. While the name has “malt” in it, maltodextrin does not contain any malt (phew!). It comes in a white powder or a concentrated solution.

What Is This in My Food? Maltodextrin?

What’s important for those of us with allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease to know is this: Maltodextrin is derived from corn, rice, potato starch, wheat, and sometimes barley.  So if you have allergies or sensitivities to any of these, you may react to maltodextrin. I know I sure do! This is why I don’t use Splenda–it contains maltodextrin from corn.

If you have celiac disease, you need to stay away from maltodextrin derived from wheat and barley. This is easier said than done. For instance, the other night my husband was eating barbecue ribs and maltodextrin was listed on the label. According the FDA Regulations, if the maltodextrin contained wheat, wheat should have been included on the ingredient (maltodextrin (wheat)).  It wasn’t. But I still didn’t feel safe because “gluten free” didn’t appear on the packaging either. And since I’m also allergic to corn anyway, I decided not to take a chance on those ribs.

Honestly, unless I’m eating food from a allergy-friendly company, I’ve never seen the source of maltodextrin listed. The reason maltodextrin derived from wheat can be listed as plain old maltodextrin, even though the FDA has labeling rules for the top-8 allergens, is a bit complicated. The Gluten Free Dietitian has a good explanation here.  I’m sure she did better in science class than I did.

Something else to consider: The amount of gluten in maltodextrin is usually less than 20 ppm; this means the FDA allows the food to be labeled gluten-free. For those of us who are super sensitive, 20 ppm is way too much.

So I’m glad I didn’t buy that chicken or bite into those ribs.  Unless the ingredient list identifies the source of maltodextrin, I’m staying away from it.

What Is This in My Food? Maltodextrin first appeared in Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

9 thoughts on “What Is This in My Food? Maltodextrin

  1. Thank you! Guess I should have said “roasted” chicken. LOL! Maltodextrin is one of the many reasons I can no longer eat those grocery store slow-roasted whole chickens that always smell so good!
    Have a good day!

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  2. I also did not do well in science class. If I could have predicted the future and all the illnesses that would come my way, I probably would have studied harder. Hell, I would have majored in it.
    I avoid sugar, but I sometimes see maltodextrin in the few processed foods I eat. I had no idea where it came from. Thanks for the info! I’m gluten sensitive, allergic to dairy and some other things, and I avoid a bunch of other foods, such as soy, nightshade vegs, foods high in histamine … eventually I will have to do a food post but it’s totally overwhelming.
    I love Ana Phylaxis’s blog name!

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    • We have a lot in common. Don’t you think learning to deal with chronic illnesses is a full-time job? I don’t think people understand how much work it is to “stay healthy.” Thanks for following and writing. 🙂 And yes, Ana Phylaxis is a great name and she’s just as great in person!

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  3. Val says:

    I’m in the Uk, the only time I’ve seen the source of maltodextrin mentioned was on a packet of crisps (chips) in Waitrose supermarket. I’m coeliac, wheat & corn intolerant so avoid it at all times. Dextrose & glucose syrup are the other things I avoid because I don’t know what grain they’re sourced from.

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