What Is Cultured Dextrose?

Salad with assorted bottles of dressing
Cultured dextrose may be in your bottle of salad dressing. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If you're reading the ingredient list on the packaged foods you eat, you may come across ingredients you've never heard of and may wonder about their uses. Cultured dextrose is a food additive found in a variety of foods, from meats to salad dressing, and it is used to prolong shelf life.

About Cultured Dextrose

As the name implies, cultured dextrose is a cultured, or fermented, food product. It's made by combining dextrose, which is the simple sugar glucose, with the bacteria Propionibacterium freudenreichii. The bacteria is considered safe and is naturally found in dairy foods. While the food additive has been studied for safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not completed its assessment and has not given it generally recognized as safe, or GRAS, status.

How It Works

Cultured dextrose helps improve the shelf life of foods by inhibiting the growth of various microorganisms, such as bacteria and yeast. According to the makers of the food additive, cultured dextrose is a more-natural food additive, and it may be used in place of other products that extend shelf life, such as sorbates and benzoates. While there are no health concerns with sorbate, the Center for Science in the Public Interest reports that when benzoate is combined with ascorbic acid in food, benzenes may form.

Food Sources

Despite not having GRAS status, cultured dextrose is found in a number of different types of food items to help make them last longer in your refrigerator or cupboard. Currently, it's found in meat products such as sausage, cheese, deli salads, pasta, baked goods such as tortillas and muffins, cereal bars, yogurt, sour cream, salad dressing, salsa, condiments, soups, hash browns, dips and spreads.

May Aggravate Milk Allergies

The bacteria used to make cultured dextrose may come from milk, but some manufacturers of cultured dextrose no longer get the bacteria directly from milk, according to a report by the Vegetarian Resource Group. If you have an allergy to milk or you avoid milk for personal reasons, read food labels carefully. If the product contains cultured dextrose but the label does not clearly indicate that it contains milk, contact the manufacturer to be sure that the food is safe to eat.

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