Traditional Indian sweets have lost their popularity as a Diwali gifting option and have been replaced by bakery products like biscuits, cakes, fancy cookies, doughnuts, and pastries. The trend has changed because each year stories are reported in newspapers about sweet shops being raided by food safety officers because of selling adulterated sweets. To avoid the risk of falling ill most consumers have begun to buy and gift hampers of bakery products. Among the most popular bakery items biscuits head the list and several branded, as well as local bakeries, increase their production of biscuits for Diwali. Several companies launch new biscuit products at this time as they are sure of making huge sales.
Types of Bakeries
Bakery products are prepared in manufacturing facilities and sold in retail shops or they are prepared and sold in the local bakeries. According to the FSSAI’s Food Safety Management System for Bakery and Bakery Products the bakery sector in India comprise 2,000 organized or semi-organized bakeries producing around 1.3 million tonnes of the bakery products and 1,000,000 unorganized small-scale bakeries producing 1.7 million tonnes. Bread and biscuits are the most popular bakery items and account for 80% of the total market. Key issues that the industry is facing include the need for improvements in hygienic practices as well as technology apart from the availability of skilled manpower at all levels of bakery operations.
Spoilage Major Problem
Local bakeries are often confronted by economic losses because of microbiological contamination as some bakery products have a very short shelf life. Spoilage can occur because of
- poor packaging
- lack of sanitary practices during processing
- improper storage conditions
- low product turnover
Bakery products are prone to microbial contamination from Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus and consuming contaminated products can lead to foodborne illnesses. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can cause food poisoning especially in products where the cream has been used. Yeast contamination to a large extent results from unclean utensils and equipment. So consumers have to careful when selecting bakery products and look out for visible signs of spoilage. Bakery products, especially moist products require specific food safety management to reduce the risk of spoilage. Also, some bakery products require special storage conditions and temperature controlled storage to reduce microbial growth and if products have not been stored appropriately it is advisable not to buy them or gift them. A major source ofBacillus contamination is from the raw ingredients so bakeries must ensure they use ingredients that have very little contamination, follow strict sanitary and good manufacturing practices. Since mould spoilage increases losses for bakeries, therefore, using preservatives is an attractive way to reduce spoilage and ensure food safety. There are a number of consumers who do not wish to buy foods that have additives and preservatives so big manufacturers have begun to use natural preservatives or have reduced the use of chemical preservatives but there is no way to know the number of preservatives used by local bakeries.
Detecting spoilage as consumer
Avoid buying bakery products that have white or pinkish patches as that is probably yeast spoilage as the bakery products. However, unscrupulous retailers can camouflage these patches with food colours in which case you must detect spoilage with the smell. Yeast spoilage has a sour or alcoholic odour due to fermentation and so you must avoid buying the bakery products. Sugar based glazes or sugar-coated pastry products, raw pastry and fresh fruit fillings or toppings on pastry are more susceptible to yeast contamination. Mould is another kind of spoilage that is visible as white clusters that turn blue-green and finally black. Moulds also cause undesirable odour. Mould growth can occur when products have been packaged before completely cooling after baking. Since grains and cereals, as well as peanuts and coffee, are prone to moulds bakeries must ensure that their supplier provides mould free flour from cereals and peanuts when used as ingredients.
Check out sanitation and hygienic practices
If you buy products from local bakeries then it is important to check out the cleanliness of the premises and hygiene standards of the food handlers. Also, the bakery must follow regulatory requirements to keep flies, insects, and pests out of the bakery as they can contaminate products. You must buy products from only those local bakeries that have
- clean premises and fly proofing
- display cases that are hygienically maintained and have temperature control
- personnel with cleans clothes, they must wear gloves and headgear while handling and packing bakery products to prevent bare hand contact with foods
- separate personnel for handling money and foods
Bakery personnel must be aware of basic food safety parameters so that they can produce safe bakery products and prevent any kind of cross-contamination. They must
- not work while they are ill
- wash their hands regularly
- not touch their mouth, nose, eyes or other body parts
- not chew or smoke tobacco
- not wear jewellery
- have clipped nails
Maintaining sanitation in the bakery can be quite challenging as flour dust spreads everywhere. Cleaning the scattered flour with water can cause the formation of pathogens which are easily induced by a combination of raw flour and water. Also keeping the equipment clean can be challenging especially if it cannot be dissembled. Bakery equipment must be taken apart for cleaning and bowls, bins and containers must be thoroughly washed and dried to prevent pathogen growth and cross-contamination. Ventilation is an important factor as any mist formed from washing can enter the production area and cause microbial contamination.
Labeling of bakery products
Bakery product manufacturers must ensure that the bakery products are packaged appropriately and labeled accurately. If foods are labeled inaccurately then consumers can be affected by allergens and can also fall ill if some ingredients are not listed on labels. While buying bakery products from manufacturers you must check labels on the packaging for the FSSAI logo and license number, ‘the best before/expiry date, the batch/lot number, list of ingredients, nutritional information and allergens as these will help you to select the right bakery products. Consumers need to be aware that local bakeries do not have labels and so there is no ingredient list and no way to know what ingredients or additives have been used, just like in the case of traditional sweets. Therefore, consumers need to be more alert when buying bakery products from local bakeries as they could be selling products made from adulterated raw materials and ingredients. The bakeries must get ingredients and raw materials from reliable and licensed suppliers that are compliant with food regulations to ensure food safety. Avoid buying bakery products unless the local bakery has a good reputation.
Storage is important
It is also important to buy bakery products only form those local bakeries that have proper display and storage. There are a number of products made by bakeries that can be stored at room temperature but there are other items that require refrigeration and temperature control storage. Local bakeries must ensure that their ingredients and finished products are stored according to temperature requirements as well as shelf life so that the products are free of microbial contamination. Storage of raw ingredients is equally important to prevent cross-contamination as bakeries use eggs, milk, peanuts and wheat which are allergenic in nature. All ingredients must be stored separately with allergens below so there is no mixing. You must also know that local bakeries do not undertake any testing of their products so there is no guarantee of their quality or safety parameters. Conducting food testing is important as that ensures products are safe from potential hazards and microbial contaminations.
Whether they are a branded manufacturer of bakery products or a local bakery they must ensure food safety so physical, chemical and microbiological contaminant risk is minimised. They must ensure that their suppliers provide only safe and quality raw material as that is the foundation of quality bakery products that are safe for human consumption. There must be proper labeling or signage so customers can make informed choices that suits their health status. Bakeries must ensure that personnel follow all food safety parameters and maintain personal hygiene.