Going gluten-free in a bakery is not just a simple case of swapping ingredients

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Before starting up a gluten-free line, bakers need to consider several important points. Pic: ©iStock/zimmytws
Before starting up a gluten-free line, bakers need to consider several important points. Pic: ©iStock/zimmytws

Related tags Food safety

Before reaching for the gluten-free flour, there are a number of elements to consider from a risk and food safety point of view, writes Helen Hood, director of totrain.

With the ever-increasing demand from consumers for “free-from” foods, who could blame smaller suppliers for extending their ranges to include them?

It’s not just allergies or intolerances that are driving purchasing choices any more. For many, it’s a lifestyle choice to remove gluten, dairy, eggs or others from their diet.

Points to ponder

Helen totrain
Helen Hood

"One issue we see regularly is people concentrating too much on the products that have allergens in them and neglecting those that don’t.  This increases the risk of cross contamination."

While introducing a free-from range changes the ingredients you work with, this is just the start.

The ingredients have to be properly declared, and allergens clearly marked.

Then there’s the issue that gluten-free raises your food safety risk.

How are you going to manage your ingredients to avoid cross-contamination? How are you going to segregate them? Are you going to segregate baking or product production by time - working on different products at different times? If so, how are you going to clean in between batches to make sure you’re not cross-contaminating?

You may also have to consider how you approach cleaning.

Bakeries tend to dry-clean as much as possible but if you’re working with different ingredients, you may have to consider other kinds of cleaning processes.

Traditionally, bakeries clean to a microbiological standard (that is, removing pathogens), however allergens are normally protein-based and proteins react differently. Disinfectants will reduce bacteria to an acceptable level but an allergen can’t be killed. It has to be physically removed.

Production, allergens and staff

If you are going to segregate by time, you need to work out if you have enough time to do the relevant cleaning before you start using another product. That gets you into the realms of production scheduling.

There’s also allergen management.

And then your staff? Do they understand the potential risks and consequences of cross-contamination? Do they know what all the potential allergens are? Do they know how to clean to make sure any contaminants are removed?

How do you communicate with your staff?

You must not assume they know what the allergens are or even that there are 14 of them.

Like mustard and celery, often used to create savory products, for example; and lupin in patisseries. Other common allergens within the bakery sector are soya, nuts and tree nuts.  

To do or not to do

One issue we see regularly is people concentrating too much on the products that have allergens in them and neglecting those that don’t.  This increases the risk of cross contamination.

They also rely on protective clothing and color coding, which isn’t a complete safety net but only two of many practices you should put in place to ensure there is no cross-contamination.

enlighten
Make clear

Totrain recently launched www.enlighten.team,​ the first cloud-based training tool aiding food manufacturers understand and address food safety culture and work towards becoming “audit-ready”.

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