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HMRC internal manual

VAT Food

Items benefiting from the relief: what is food?: food ingredients and additives: starch

Starch is carbohydrate formed in plants from carbon dioxide and water and stored in stems or tubers as a food reserve, being converted into sugar as necessary. The principal starches used in food manufacture are wheat starch, maize (or corn) starch, rice starch, potato starch and cassava starch.

Separated starches intended for food use are generally modified to a greater or lesser extent so that they dissolve more easily (natural starch is relatively difficult to dissolve in water) and form more stable gels or jellies. Food starch may be supplied as it stands for home use (for example cornflour, which is pure maize starch) but most is supplied within the food industry for use in the manufacture of glucose and as thickeners and stabilisers in manufactured foods.

Other modifications may be made to specialise starches to industrial (non-food) uses, such as paper production and the manufacture of adhesives. Industrial starch is often too impure for food use although this may not always be the case, as starch for pharmaceutical use, for example, must possess a high level of purity. In the absence of any workable rule for differentiating between food and non-food starch, we have conceded zero-rating to all edible (food grade) starches which are not specifically held out for sale for a non-food use.