Popping into your local convenience store for a donut, danish, or muffin to go with your morning coffee may look a little different these days. With the recent rise in concern over health risks, many businesses, including c-stores, are taking additional measures to ensure food, customer, and staff safety in producing, storing, offering, and delivering baked goods.
Baked goods food safety begins with suppliers and manufacturing. Partnering with bakeries and premade or pre-packaged food manufacturers allows c-stores to provide high-quality products without the time, costs, and labor involved in producing them in-house. Pre-packaged baked goods from wholesale pastry distributors come with lower health and safety risks than fresh unwrapped items.
It is important for convenience stores to know and trust their bakery suppliers and to get to know their food safety measures. Some important questions for convenience stores to know the answers to are:
- How do pastries suppliers control food allergens in production?
- How do they control the introduction of any foreign materials?
- How effective are their cleaning and sanitizing procedures?
- How are temperatures maintained during production, storage, and transportation?
- How clean are their transportation vehicles?
- How accurate are their food and nutrition labels?
The high heat in the baking process and the low water activity found in most baked goods enable them to be safely stored at room temperature. Some cream or custard-filled products, as well as cheesecakes or breads topped with cheese, meats, or fresh fruits and vegetables, may need refrigeration or other storage considerations. Most pre-packaged baked goods will have higher shelf stability and longer shelf life.
It is important for convenience stores to keep track of refrigeration temperatures and storage capacity available for any products that may need temperature control. This includes proper storage and refrigeration during any transport and delivery as well. Ordering wholesale breads, pastries, and other baked goods locally allow for shorter and safer delivery times.
There are foodborne illnesses such as salmonella, listeria, and staphylococcus to be kept in mind with the storage and sale of food items. Luckily, bakery goods are typically considered low risk regarding food spoilage and pathogens, but risk assessment and consistent care can help keep everyone safe.
Baked Goods Access and Delivery
Traditionally when you’ve walked into any convenience store, you would see the baked goods section arranged in a help-yourself display. Many stores are now doing away with this method to protect customers from any transmissible viruses and bacteria. You’ll find a lot of c-stores are switching to clerk-served bakery sections.
There is also a shift towards offering more pre-packaged products rather than unwrapped fresh baked goods for grab-and-go consumption. For those who are uncomfortable with going into the store at all, many convenience stores now offer contactless delivery of all their products, including groceries, beverages, baked goods, and other hot foods.
Staff Hygiene and Sanitation
All staff should be appropriately trained on food and workplace sanitation to ensure convenience store safety. Employees should be aware of their role in keeping themselves as well as customers safe. Proper attention should be paid to the hygiene of anyone who personally deals with food products. Hand washing should be thorough and often.
All uniforms and clothes worn around food should be clean. This includes aprons, shoes, gloves, and hair nets. Gloves are essential for all employees to wear when making or handling food. Making sure shoes are also slip-resistant will prevent unnecessary staff accidents.
Employee health is an important key to success in food safety. Any staff member who is ill should be sent home, and the food they’ve handled should be inspected. This is especially true for any employee showing food poisoning symptoms.
Staff members should also be aware of the risks and dangers involved in food allergies or food contamination that could lead to allergic reactions. It’s important for all involved in food preparation and handling to help minimize allergen health risks.
One food safety hazard is the use of dirty food preparation surfaces and utensils. C-stores should maintain cleanliness on all tools and equipment used in preparing, serving, and storing food. This includes counters, cutting boards, tongs, knives, spatulas, etc. It is easy to overlook cleanliness during busy service days, but proper attention should be paid to frequently wiping down surfaces and in washing utensils.
Dirty surfaces and equipment may attract unwanted pests. Rats and insects will be attracted to food waste, crumbs, and unwashed surfaces. This can cause all sorts of health issues within a convenience store and may even alert the health inspectors.
While baked goods are typically safe food products for c-stores and to stock and sell, there are certain precautions that will ensure the health and safety of customers and staff. Working with trusted wholesale pastry distributors and baked goods manufacturers allows convenience stores to provide high-quality, safe products without the additional hassles and risks involved with in-store food production.