China’s National Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment yesterday moved to reassure consumers that maltodextrins added to infant formula and other foods are safe when used within set limits.
According to China Daily, the body announced that, used within regulated limits, maltodextrin – a soluble polysaccharide formed via the hydrolysis of starch – would not cause malnutrition or other health problems.
Maltodextrins are low molecular weight carbohydrates result from treating starch with acid, alkali or enzymes, and are used by food firms to stop sugar from crystallising, as sweeteners (within formula the high calorific value can benefit infants), and as a thickening agent for powdered mixes.
The centre released its statement following what it said was growing public concern about the safety of milk powder, after media reports of adulterated maltodextrin in a number of such products.
Chinese national standards for infant formula state that the amount of lactose in dairy-based formula foods, for babies under 12 months, should not be less than 90% of total carbohydrates.
Thus, the content of maltodextrins and other pre-cooked and gelatinised starches must not exceed 10% of total carbohydrates in such products.
A spokesman for the centre, Han Junhua, said that this requirement was stricter than international standards setting the maximum content of starches added in infant formula at 30 of total carbohydrates, while maltodextrins do not have a maximum limit.
In line with international standards, the centre said that China sets no minimum requirement for lactose content in foods for older babies, but qualified this by stating that such foods must meet nutritional standards regarding energy, protein, vitamin and mineral content.
China established its national food safety centre late last year, in a bid to apply improved scientific management and prevent food scandals.
*Article corrected on June 27, since the term 'dextrins' was widely used as a term in place of 'maltodextrins'. Only three carbohydrates - lactose, maltodextrin and starch - are authorised as ingredients in baby food/infant formula.