Since the past few years there has been a high demand for biscuits and cakes during Diwali not just for home consumption but for gifting too. Seeing the demand for biscuits and cakes, several traditional sweet shops have also begun to sell cakes and biscuits, in keeping with consumer demands. Biscuit hampers have made inroads into the traditional sweet market as they are more affordable and have a longer shelf life. However, with COVID-19 still looming large bakeries will have to ensure that they prepare their products under the most hygienic conditions and follow FSSAI guidelines pertaining to COVID-19
Categories of bakeries
Bakery products are basically of two types, those that are prepared in manufacturing facilities and sold from retail stores or those that are prepared and sold in local bakeries. This means that both the organised and unorganised sector prepare and sell bakery products. The question that emerges is not the categories but whether these bakery products are prepared under hygienic conditions or not. Secondly do local bakeries employ the right kind of personnel who are trained fully to carry out bakery operations keeping hygiene and sanitation requirements in mind as prescribed in Schedule 4 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
A third category of bakers, that have become popular in recent times, is that of the home baker. There are also several home bakers that may or may not have an FSSAI License but consumers order from them as they think the quality of the products is better than that bought from local bakeries. However, home bakers too need to have an FSSAI license. This will make it easier for them to sell their products online and build trust among consumers that their products are safe. In fact, online ordering of cakes is very popular for gifting as they are home delivered. However, before ordering online, consumers must know from which bakery the products are coming and if it is from a licensed vendor, so there are no food safety issues.
Contamination in bakery products
Consumers must keep in mind that bakery products, like many other processed products are subject to microbial, chemical and physical contamination. Physical and chemical contamination in bakery products, that do not have high moisture content, will lead to spoilage, which reduces shelf life. On the other hand, bakery products that have high moisture content can have microbiological contamination from pathogens like bacteria, yeast and moulds. Bakery products can also cause foodborne illnesses if they are contaminated with pathogens like salmonella, Listeria monoctyogenes and Bacillus cereus or Clostridium botulinum. There are higher chances of microbial contamination in those bakery products that are not processed by heat when using ingredients like cream, icing, fillings and fruits.
How to buy safe bakery products
When buying bakery products from local bakeries consumers can easily form an idea about the hygienic condition of the personnel as well as the products just by sensory evaluation. They can see if the products smell and look fresh and if the personnel are dressed cleanly. The quality of the raw ingredients, however, cannot be guaranteed unless the bakeries buy products from FSSAI licensed vendors, especially if they themselves have an FSSAI license. Bakeries with an FSSAI license are more likely to be in compliance with food regulations. On entering the bakery look out to see if
- the highly moist products like cakes and pastries have been stored in temperature-controlled storage. Storage conditions are important as they impact shelf-life.
- food handlers are wearing gloves for manually handling cakes and pastries.
- they are sanitising their hands which is required in the present times
- the wrapping and packaging operations are being carried out in a hygienic manner so as to avoid contaminating the products
- bakeries display ‘use by date’ on their bakery products, which several bakeries have begun to do now
Food safety in bakeries
The market growth for bakery products has been on the rise, both in the rural and urban areas, because of changed eating habits and reasonable price range. Big manufacturers are targeting the rural consumers by keeping their price range competitive. However, it is the quality of ingredients that is likely to help consumers accept the product and prefer it over another similar product. By following all food safety requirements bakeries can offer safe bakery products to consumers. Some best practices that good bakeries follow are that they
- buy ingredients only from licensed vendors, whether it is cream, milk, dry fruits, flour, oil etc.
- have appropriate storage for ingredients, raw materials, as well as finished products
- ensure proper sanitation and hygiene in preparation and handling of products
- have strict personal hygiene rules for personnel working in the bakery
- have cooking surfaces, cutting boards and utensils washed thoroughly so there is no cross-contamination
- make sure all equipment mixers, slicers and even ovens are thoroughly cleaned after each use
Packaging and labelling bakery products
Bakery product manufacturers must ensure that the bakery products are packaged in food grade packaging and labelled accurately. If the baked products are labelled inaccurately then consumers might not be aware if the products contain any allergens, especially if some ingredients are not listed. In order to make an informed choice when buying bakery products from manufacturers, consumers 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
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. Consumers must make sure that the local bakery is licensed and is following FSSAI regulations before buying bakery products from them.