Humidity and temperature should be regulated and maintained for food safety and worker comfort. While some areas in the United States are hot and humid year-round, other climates can vary widely.
“Sometimes it’s different in the morning, which is different than the afternoon, which is different in the evening,” said Mike Anderson, sales manager, Air Management Technologies. “So we need to maintain consistency in that environment that the product travels through, and that includes before the oven. ... Because without a consistent environment, bakers may have to alter formulation, temperatures or bake and cooling times to maintain product consistency.”
Labor challenges have created pressure to keep workers more comfortable, so bakeries are following not just minimal standards but surpassing traditional comfort norms. Frank Cea, vice president, engagement, RoboVent, cited a Cypress Research study from the American Bakers Association and the American Society of Baking that found 95% of bakers feel that making bakery manufacturing appealing is a significant recruiting challenge, and 88% of them feel that the challenging manufacturing environment is a significant retention challenge.
Worker comfort at bakeries is often a topic of discussion, Mr. Anderson said.
“In some locations, it does get to the point where we talk about, ‘Should we install actual air conditioning’ or at least provide mechanical cooling to lower temperature and humidity in an effort to attract workers?” he said. “Inside bakeries can be a difficult environment for workers due to the combination of process heat and moisture combined with summer conditions, especially in the southeastern and south central regions. Certainly, that comes up frequently.”
Bakeries that are making products with allergens or are using ingredients that could be a hazard such as strong spices must ensure that workers are safe from exposure and that there is no cross-contamination of products.
Bakeries often have allergen zones sectioned off from other areas of the manufacturing floor or have additional filtration, special exhaust systems or dust collectors. These allergen zones also may have a different pressurization than the rest of the bakery to keep allergens and spices in their zones.
“Allergen space will still be pressurized positive compared to outdoors, but the space itself will be at a negative compared to the surrounding zones,” Mr. Anderson explained.
Once controls are put in place, conditions should be monitored regularly to ensure quality standards are still being met.
“The main point we constantly advocate is there has to be control, it must be an intelligent control system, and that control system must have monitoring and verification,” Mr. Anderson said. “An on-off switch does not help you maintain that consistent environment and verify that you have that positive pressurization and that things are working. Over the course of a day, production volumes may change. Outdoor temperature and humidity changes. A system must be dynamic to maintain environmental consistency which directly affects product quality.”
Food and worker safety are always top goals for bakers. Maintaining good air quality by keeping facilities clean and using the right filtration and pressurization will help bakers keep everyone protected and ensure a safe food supply.
This article is an excerpt from the August 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Sustainability, click here.