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Professional cleaning yet to take off in Indian Bakeries

In the yet to be consolidated Indian bakery sector, the deployment of professional cleaning and hygiene systems is still evolving. Mechanised and electrical ovens are efficient in making consistent quality products but experts have pinpointed hygiene as an important prerequisite for product shelf life and this bears relevance to the new more stringent FSSAI Act.

Bakeries have been maintaining their own SOPs in cleaning but the new Act, which allows for modernisation, as of today has very few takers. On the contrary, the system of cooking over open wood fires continues even today. “Wood fired bakeries have a long way to go in terms of automated cleaning,” says Dr Sheikh Abdullah, Director, Kwality Bakery. “They don’t fall under the purview of the Food Safety Act, as they are either small in size or are 10 years old and can do away with the guidelines laid for hygiene.”

The transition is largely being noticed in big bakeries like Kwality, Wibs, Britannia and Modern Foods but the scenario is bleak where small bakeries are concerned.

This scenario can also be attributed to the Government laxity in enforcing stringent food safety rules for maintaining cleanliness and hygiene. Besides, bakeries do not use machines for cleaning because of their labour intensive production processes. Hemavand Namdarian, Vice President, India Bakers Association (IBA) and owner of Shapur Bakery in Mumbai, says, “This industry is labour intensive, as labour is cheap and can be trained easily. Migrant workers from villages and remote areas take up cleaning jobs without any qualms. They are ready to work for as less as 60-100 per day. Staff performing jobs manually is a common sight even in Five Star bakeries in India.”

Apart from the easy availability of labour, another factor which restricts automation in India is the high cost of cleaning machines. Besides, the maneuverability of cleaning equipment in bakeries is constricted. Existing bakeries are not outsourcing the cleaning jobs to private contractors as cleaning is a 24×7 job and better managed by the in house staff. Moreover, a contractor charges on per sqft basis adding to the cost.

The wood fired bakeries require roof top fan rotators to maintain the indoor temperature. These are indigenous and locally available at a minimum cost of 7,000.

Scope for automation in Indian bakeries

Out of the more than 85,000 bakery units in India, 75,000 operate in the unorganised sector occupying 65% of the market share. The 3000 crore bakery industry of India caters to the mass consumption need for bread, biscuits, pastries, cakes, buns, rusk and other items.

Most bakeries in the unorganised segment operating on wood fired ovens have crude production processes. The implementation of FSSAI Act in such places would require strategic awareness programmes and education. While in the cities people are hygiene conscious to an extent, in remote areas the concept is unknown.

Training the staff hailing from remote areas of Bihar, UP and Jharkhand poses a big challenge. “We are currently training the staff of several bakeries based on the new act, through our Associations like India Bakers’ Association, Bombay Bakers’ Association and the Society of Indian Bakers. We conduct seminars to educate them about the FSSAI Act and circulars are given out regularly to help them abide by the rules,” Hemavand explains.

Brands like Cremica, Britannia, Wibs and Kwality have been strictly following SOPs in accordance to the guidelines, as stipulated in the FSSAI Act, because they have to maintain their credibility in the market and also face stiff competition with the rival companies both in the unorganised and organised segments.

Some bakery owners lease out their facilities to contractors for a stipulated time. Since most of the contractors are non-professionals, they are not answerable to the management. This leads to laxity in terms of putting a proper workflow of hygiene and cleaning systems. Bombay Bakers’ Association has a membership of 2500 bakers, but most of the members are not aware of FSSAI Act.

“In order to ensure that our staff is healthy and disease free, we have appointed private doctors, who do regular monthly medical check ups and issue certificates accordingly. Dr Sheikh Abdullah

Dr Abdullah says, “We can educate them area-wise, wherein Mumbai city and the other adjoining areas could be divided zone wise, like Greater Mumbai can be divided into Central, Western and Eastern suburbs covering areas like Govandi, Shivaji Nagar, Kurla, Cheetah Camp and Dharavi, which has maximum number of bakeries.”

Cleaning Systems

The raw material in bakeries are stored in designated areas like flour, ghee and sugar are put on in separate shelves, away from the floor area in a vacuum packed room, equipped with sanitizers and deodorizers. The small oven rooms are maintained at a certain temperature for products like khari, toast and bread. “I have a contract system with a supplier, who manages a fleet of refrigerated vans and delivers products to respective outlets in a seamless manner. Waste disposal in the baking process is minimal and is taken care of by the Municipal Corporation. For installing chimney for effluent gases, special permission from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) is required,” Hemavand informs.

At Shapur Bakery, machines are cleaned every four hours and HACCP guidelines for personal hygiene are strictly followed diligently. “As per the FSSAI Act, staff need to be made aware about hand washing and wearing of gloves and caps while dealing with food products. Not conforming to the act can attract penalty,” adds Hemavand.

“As per the FSSAI Act, staff need to be made aware about hand washing and wearing of gloves and caps while dealing with food products. Not conforming to the act can attract penalty.”– Hemavand Namdarian

As per the guidelines of the Factory Act, Kwality Bakery in Mumbai has set up a panel of certified government doctors who verify the personal hygiene of the staff and perform medical check-ups for any disease on an annual basis. “In order to ensure that our staff is healthy and disease free, we have appointed private doctors, who do regular monthly medical check and issue certificates accordingly.”

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