It is inevitable that bakers and most plant employees will be repeatedly exposed to ‘flour dust,’ which is known to cause an allergy known as ‘bakers asthma’ when exposure is not well controlled.
Enzymes, too – widely used due to their valuable contribution to the quality of finished baked goods – are proteins and act as respiratory sensitizers if workers are repeatedly exposed to airborne dust.
Sensitization often leads to a respiratory allergy, although not everyone who becomes sensitized shows symptoms.
Enzyme or flour allergy
An allergy by inhalation of flour or enzymes is similar to respiratory allergies from allergens like grass-pollen, house dust mites or cat dander, and symptoms can be similar.
However, some people are more prone to sensitization than others, especially those who are atopic, meaning they are already allergic to one or more of the common allergens.
It is also important to note that not all atopic individuals will become allergic to enzymes or flour, while non-atopic individuals could develop an enzyme or flour allergy if exposed to sufficiently high airborne concentrations on a regular basis.
According to FEDIMA and AMFEP, the potential for respiratory sensitization and an allergy can be controlled by proper handling, learned from experience from over 40 years of handling enzyme products in the detergent industry.
The two associations have collaborated for many years to monitor and educate the bakery sector on the correct handling of raw materials and ingredients that contain enzymes.
Last year, they published an industry guide, entitled ‘Guidelines on the Safe Handling of Enzymes in the Bakery Supply Chain,’ as well as an easy-to-read poster, available in 12 languages, which can be used to inform factory employees about safe practices.
FEDIMA and AMFEP are now hosting four important webinars on the Safe Handling of Enzymes during October and November to provide insight into best practices and the tools to control dust exposure.
The webinars – which are free to attend – will take a deep dive into:
- The health hazards associated with enzymes
- Current regulatory framework concerning the use of flour and enzymes in the baking industry
- Management procedures required to ensure adequate controls and staff training
- Process and equipment design to minimize and maintain low exposure levels
- Air monitoring procedures to assess enzyme exposure levels
- Recommendations on health surveillance and
- Discussing enzyme allergy as a consumer issue.
Webinar 1 - October 15 (14h00 CET): Introduction to safe handling of enzymes in the bakery supply chain, including regulatory aspects
Webinar 2 - October 29 (14h00 CET): Control of exposure during handling of enzymes in bakery sector - artisan bakeries, bakery schools & demonstration bakeries
Webinar 3 - November 19 (14h00 CET): Control of exposure during handling of enzymes in the bakery sector - flour millers, industrial bakeries & ingredients manufacturers
Webinar 4 - 26 November (14h00 CET): Health surveillance and air monitoring
The webinars will be held ‘live’ through a web application and will be recorded, so they can be shared with participants afterwards. Participants need to register beforehand.
The webinars, as well as the industry guidelines they are based upon, address the mitigation of OCCUPATIONAL exposure to enzymes in the bakery sector only, not the exposure to the general consumer. They focus on how to reduce dust to avoid respiratory sensitization among the workforce – other hazards are not covered.
Only the control of flour and enzyme exposure within the European baking industry will be addressed. Although the general principles and recommendations are widely applicable, some of the guidance given may not be applicable to bakery production sites in other parts of the world.