Baking & Snack - October 2017 - 105

Joe Stout


Bakers must consider all new risks when
transitioning to ready-to-eat products.


With the ever-growing demand for ready-to-eat (RTE) foods, some processors are faced with the decision of converting their raw, par-baked or readyto-cook (RTC) process to RTE. This could be a daunting choice, and knowing where to start is the first major challenge.
A good first step is conducting a product risk assessment to determine
if the existing microbial kill or reduction step will adequately eliminate the
pathogen of concern. AIB International has published a number of calculators that can help. Once the process is validated, the risks for post-process
contamination need to be examined. Various tools are available to help.
Looking at the separation of raw and RTE from building and equipment perspectives is a good starting point, especially if the current process requires
a new or modified kill step. From here, the equipment located downstream
from the oven needs to be assessed for potential microbial contamination.
Disassembling for deep or detailed clean is likely required to eliminate
microbes from harborage points such as overlapping surfaces or sandwiches. Inspection will verify if harborage points contain liquid that may also be
contaminated. Other potential sources of contamination that did not present a high risk for the raw products - but will for the new RTE products
- must be considered.
Using checklists from the Grocery Manufacturers Association or other
sources will help assess the equipment and infrastructure. During this
phase of the transformation process, the team should swab to confirm that
potential niches were cleaned and spoilage and harmful pathogens were
eliminated. In most cases, the number of environmental samples taken and
the sampling frequency will need to be increased in the new RTE area.
The facility may already have an environmental monitoring program for
pathogens, but it will need to be reassessed to verify the effectiveness of the
new barriers and controls. The question is, can the raw production area be
separated from the new RTE side of the plant?
In many bakeries and snack plants with linear processing lines, the natural separation provided by the oven or the fryer will provide the demarcation needed to separate the raw and RTE sides. Depending on the product
risk, it may not be necessary to have the two areas physically separated by
walls. The key point will be to look at the product's traffic pattern in implementing a separation between the raw and RTE areas.
Employee practices are the next consideration. Shoe and boot sanitizers or
sanitizing stations may be needed when moving between the raw and the RTE
sides. Transport equipment, forklifts and carts will also need to be evaluated.
Having dedicated vehicles for each area is certainly the best option, but if this
is not possible, then a cleaning and verification program can be implemented.
Taking time to explain the reasons for the new practices is certainly a significant part of the project. Presenting those changes in a classroom might
be the first step, but observing their practices and coaching them on the
floor is equally, if not more, important.
Transforming a raw process to RTE might not take place overnight, but
there are many aspects to consider. The formation of a strong plan that
includes options for the different aspects of the transformation will be
essential for success.

* / October 2017 Baking & Snack 105

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Baking & Snack - October 2017