Dubai: Ever wondered if the bread or biscuits you buy, no matter how fresh they may seem, are safe to consume in COVID-19 times?
As it turns out, there is quite an effort behind the scenes to ensure bakeries meet the highest standards of safety as stipulated by the authorities.
Explaining the safety procedures, Ajmal Pulikkal, production manager at Golden Loaf Bakery, told Gulf News: “We always take extra precautions to ensure our bakery items are handled as safely as possible. Standard safety procedure starts before our staff enter our premises. Temperature screening is conducted at the gate. All staff are then led to an area where they wash their hands, disinfect and wear disposable gloves, masks, aprons, hair nets and other necessary protective clothing.”
Pulikkal said physical distancing is also practised while bakers are at work. “Our bakery in Sharjah has a large floor area and we ask our staff to be apart as much as possible from each other. Chatting is also discouraged while at work to prevent any aerosol going into the air,” he added.
The bakery operates on two shifts, 24 hours daily. At least 75 staff work in each shift that start at 5am and 5pm.
Pulikkal said: “Regular temperature screening for the staff is conducted throughout the day. If someone feels sick or has a high temperature, we have a dedicated place where they can be temporarily isolated. But so far, no one from our production staff has been infected with the virus.”
Suresh Kurup, senior manager and CFO, said: “According to health experts, food is unlikely to be the source of coronavirus infection. But we can never be too careful. That is why we ensure everyone is complying with the safety procedures.”
“Because we are in the food business, we are more strict in following hygiene practices such as washing of hands thoroughly before and after handling any baked goods. All surface areas and baking equipment, including machines, are also sanitised regularly,” he added.
Imposing strict safety measures, however, is not enough. Pulikkal said they also send their bakery items for random testing to an external laboratory. “The laboratory checks the microbiology parameters and checks if we comply with the municipal food control requirements and the GSO or Gulf Standard Organisation.”
Staff training to fight COVID-19
“Everyone must be knowledgeable about the dangers of COVID-19 that is why we have also engaged our staff to take online training to fight COVID-19,” said Pulikkal and Kurup.
They noted, more than 30 bakery staff have finished an online training programme and received certification from Mohammed Bin Rashid University (MBRU) of Medicine and Health Sciences under its Community Immunity Ambassador Programme.
“Some of our staff underwent an online training to be totally aware of COVID-19 issue and precautionary measures and were certified as community immunity ambassadors. They were then tasked to share the safety protocols with their co-workers,” they added.
Mustafa Al Husseiny, general manager of Golden Loaf, underlined: “As we are in the bakery business and our employees are delivering our products all over the UAE, it is imperative to train them. We can take responsibility for our bakery and showroom premises. This is not only to get the certificate but more importantly to be a community ambassador and to educate others.”
He added: “This is a positive approach for the private establishment to participate and cooperate with the UAE government during the COVID-19 crisis. We hope we can inspire and set an example for other companies to follow.”