Good hygiene practices for bakeries to safeguard consumer health

By Joselyn Biira Mwine

Photo: monitor.co.ug

The media has been awash with news of major supermarket bakeries being sealed off by Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).  Supermarkets have turned to producing their own pastries within their premises which is a largely profitable venture. However, market surveillance inspections have unearthed gross misconduct, dirty flour mixers, storage containers, mixing stations and floors. Food safety and hygiene is an important area in any food industry especially bakery industries as it incorporates several raw ingredients.

Following best practices for keeping a workplace clean and orderly is a vital part of protecting employees and consumers, maintaining regulatory compliance and ensuring that your bakery turns out consistently great products.

Here are a few guidelines that bakery owners must follow before, during and after production to ensure that they put out a good product.

Personal hygiene is crucial

Good sanitation starts with every individual who works in the bakery. Careful attention to personal hygiene makes all the difference in keeping food free of any pathogens that staff members could carry on their bodies, hair or clothes. Every bakery should establish and enforce strict standards of cleanliness for all employees, especially those who come into direct contact with ingredients or finished items.

Common rules for bakery workers include directives to always come into the work area wearing clean clothing and keep a hairnet on throughout the day. They should wash their hands before preparation, after handling raw ingredients and of course, wash hands after cigarette and toilet breaks. It is often advisable to wear gloves, and any cuts must be cleaned and covered. Also, it is not advisable to wear jewellery as they might fall into the bread or pastry you are making.

Wash utensils and surfaces

Dirty kitchen utensils or surfaces that come into contact with food can become major hazards. Cooking and baking professionals always have to be on the lookout for cross-contamination, which can be dangerous to customers. Carelessly using the same tools or cutting boards for different tasks without cleaning them might lead to foodborne illness or unexpected allergic reactions.

In addition, any items that are left dirty might attract insects or rodents. The last thing you want is pests making themselves at home in your bakery. Thorough, regular cleaning is an essential line of defence against serious health risks.

Stay on top of equipment maintenance

Bakers rely on an array of equipment to prepare their goods efficiently, such as mixers, dough sheeters and bread slicers. In some cases, it may be a challenge to take a machine apart and keep it clean. Still, it’s important to take the time to perform these tasks regularly so that pieces of food are not left stuck inside.

It is particularly vital to keep proofing cabinets clean. These warm environments are ideal for allowing bread to rise before baking, but they can also be hospitable spots for bacteria. Bakeries should have a policy of washing out proofing cabinets with warm water and mild soap daily.

It is the responsibility of the bakery production manager or the person in charge to make daily inspections of the bakery and personnel. It is advisable to set up a cleaning frequency chart to provide for the daily cleaning of every area of baking equipment that touches the baked bread or pastry.

Properly store all food

Refrigeration and freezing units are a top priority for sanitation efforts. That starts with keeping cold storage at the right temperatures and covering food before placing it inside. Strict first-in, first-out practices and labelling procedures can head off many potential issues with improper handling or spoilage.

For walk-in coolers and freezers, always switch off the lights when no one is inside. You will save on your electricity bill and make it easier for the unit to keep food at the necessary temperature. Employees should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for regularly cleaning out refrigerators and freezers and dispose of any food that is no longer usable.

It is important for producers of bread and related pastries to know that such food products are covered by mandatory standards US EAS 43:2012/Corr. 1 2013 Bread – Specification/ Corrigendum 1 2013-09-30 which means that they must be certified by UNBS before they are sold to consumers. The Uganda Standard US 28:2002 Code of practice for hygiene in the food and drink manufacturing industry also applies to the industry and must be adhered to without fail.

For Certification to be attained, a manufacturer must apply through our online certification platform and thereafter submit a sample of each product to the laboratory for testing. UNBS officers will then conduct an audit of the production place to ascertain that it meets the required standards. Once all the tests and audits are passed, the product will be issued a Quality distinctive mark to show that it meets the required standards for consumption.

During the period when the product is issued with a quality mark, routine market surveillance inspections will be carried out where UNBS buys the product from any stockist and subjects it to laboratory tests to ensure that the product is still meeting the standard for which it was certified. In addition, UNBS visits the production place and carries out an audit of the premise. If found in breach, the premises are sealed off and culprits prosecuted and fined.

Baking and food production, in general, is not only about making fantastic things to eat. It is also about learning how to keep a business functioning at its best while meeting the demands of routine maintenance and sanitation. With the right training and experience, you can turn a love of baking into a rewarding venture.

For more information on standards and certification, call the UNBS toll free line on 0800133133.

The writer is a Public Relations Officer at Uganda National Bureau of Standards