Pro Tip: Maintaining perishable materials at monitored refrigeration temperatures can prevent pathogen growth.
Microbial concerns in the bakery start with ingredients. Several of them, including flour, eggs and dairy, are known to support pathogens. Even though the baking process should kill any pathogens, it is unacceptable to assume a high-microbial load at the start of the process.
There are a couple ways bakers can control microbial risks.
First, work with vendors to meet the bakery specifications on microbial counts for raw materials.
The second step is to maintain perishable materials such as eggs and dairy products at monitored refrigeration temperatures to prevent pathogen growth.
The baking step should be viewed as a kill step to destroy all pathogens that may have been introduced through the ingredients and processing steps. The baking process parameters are unique to the product.
This kill step should be verified for all types of products produced in the bakery. AIB International has developed kill step calculators to assist in the validation of kill step efficacy; they can be downloaded for free at www.aibinternational.com.
Bakery products are exposed to the plant environment during the cooling process. Therefore, it is important to monitor the plant environment for the presence of pathogens that could potentially contaminate baked goods after the kill step prior to packaging.
The environmental monitoring program should be robust to seek out harborage points and destroy any identified pathogens.
Challenge your cleaning efforts by varying where the swabs are taken. When a positive result is obtained, swab the surrounding areas to pinpoint the source of the pathogens and thoroughly clean it to eradicate them.
Finally, ensure proper refrigerated storage of any baked goods that could support the growth of pathogens. Monitor the temperature of these products in storage and throughout the transportation process to maintain food safety.
Use the resources at your disposal to control microbial risks and maintain the food safety of your products.
Bonnie Biegel is director of quality assurance, Americas, at AIB International.