The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Cultured Dextrose: Dairy-Derived?

Posted on January 14, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubo, MS

A long-time VRG volunteer recently asked us about an online discussion he had been following related to Glutenfreeda Foods’® Gluten-free Vegetarian Dairy Free Burrito™ and specifically the cultured dextrose listed on its ingredient label. There was a question whether the burrito could be correctly labeled “dairy free” if the cultured dextrose was sourced from a dairy-derived bacterial culture.

Here is the ingredient statement of Glutenfreeda Foods’ Gluten-free Vegetarian Dairy Free Burrito:

Gluten-free flour tortilla (white corn masa flour and a trace of lime, water, pregelatinized rice flour, potato flour, high oleic safflower oil, corn starch, xanthan gum and cultured dextrose), refried beans (beans, water, canola oil, salt), rice, salsa (tomatoes, tomato juice, (water, tomato concentrate, salt, vitamin C), onions, bell peppers, peppers, parsley, garlic, cilantro, apple cider vinegar, spices, sea salt, herbs), tofu (water, soybeans, calcium sulfate), GMO free corn, garlic salt (garlic, salt, garlic oil)(Source).

The VRG contacted GlutenFreeda Foods in October 2014 and spoke with the quality manager about the cultured dextrose in their burrito. We were told that the cultured dextrose in their burrito “…is a sugar-based food, produced through natural fermentation of traditional starter cultures.”

When we asked for further clarification we learned that cultured dextrose is “not sugar, not a sweetener; it increases shelf life [as a] natural preservative.”

In fact, companies interested in a “clean” label using only “natural” ingredients prefer cultured dextrose as an antimicrobial produced by bacterial fermentation over its chemically synthesized counterparts such as potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate derived from petrochemicals. More information on this subject can be found here:

In response to our questions, follow-up discussions with GlutenFreeda Foods revealed that their cultured dextrose supplier had responded with this information:

“Corn is the fermented sugar source in our cultured dextrose. The starter culture has not been derived from a dairy culture. No animal-derived enzymes are used in the production of our cultured dextrose.”

GlutenFreeda’s quality manager also told The VRG that:

“The product description states ‘Maltodextrin is used in the formulation of this product and has been tested and results show that no genetically modified DNA was detected. All other formulation ingredients are non-GMO. This product is kosher pareve. ‘”

(Notes: For interested readers, the Orthodox Union (OU) a leading kosher certification agency notes on its website that

“’Pareve’ means that the food is ‘neutral,’ [containing] neither dairy nor meat…Only a truly kosher pareve classification can guarantee that absolutely no dairy ingredients, no dairy residue and no contact with dairy equipment were used in preparation of the food designated as OU pareve.”

As commercially produced today maltodextrin is a corn-derived ingredient which may be used as a powder carrier, bulking agent, sweetener or texturizer in foods and beverages.) (For example, see:

Starter Cultures

While researching this topic, The VRG contacted DuPont®-Danisco® and Mezzoni Foods® manufacturers of cultured dextrose and Gillco Ingredients® a cultured dextrose distributor.

A quality supervisor at DuPont returned our call in December 2014 and told us that “there are several cultured dextrose MicroGARD™ lines, some from dextrose*, some from milk, and some from both.” She said that although “Microgard” would probably not appear on a food product label, she “…can’t advise clients how to label products but we declare all allergens to customers.” For example, if a milk product were in the cultured dextrose, it would be labeled as containing milk before it left the manufacturing plant. It would then be the responsibility of the purchasing food or beverage company to declare it on the final product’s label.

The VRG asked the DuPont quality supervisor if the starter cultures for the cultured dextrose were originally from dairy sources. She stated that cultures historically could be dairy-derived but “are not taken directly from milk today” to produce the cultured dextrose. For more information on Microgard see: Readers may note from this page that Danisco describes some of its cultured dextrose as “cultured skim milk-based” but other forms do not have this designation.

A microbiologist from Mezzoni Foods also said that “originally the starter cultures used to make cultured dextrose were derived from milk” but today many bacterial generations later they are not considered to be dairy-derived (Source).

Gillco Ingredients a cultured dextrose distributor described Microgard products as having two lines: cultured dextrose made with no dairy starter cultures and one made with skim milk. “Dairy is more expensive so not used as often…a label would read ‘cultured skim milk.’ If non-dairy cultured dextrose were in a product the label would read ‘cultured dextrose'”(Source).


Dupont told us that dextrose “is mostly derived from corn.” Mezzoni Foods and Gillco Ingredients stated that dextrose could be made from cane sugar, but they did not know if any companies were using cane sugar to make dextrose, especially when inexpensive and plentiful corn was available.

For more ingredient information see:

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The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

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