Enhancing hygiene standards in baking industry: an observation from Olam Agri’s GHSM Program on World Food Safety Day

At the Grains Laboratory

The baking industry has long been a cornerstone of the culinary landscape, serving as a vital component of the breakfast economy and a source of nutrition for people all over the world. Globally, the baking industry hit a total market value of USD 203.8 billion in 2018 and is expected to increase by 3.2% by 2025, according to research. In Africa and the Middle East, the industry is expected to grow at a rate of 4.9% between 2022 and 2030.

The sheer size of the industry and its role in providing food security for huge sectors of the population make the issue of food safety and hygiene very critical. Food hygiene and safety are essential to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses and ensure the safety of the food we consume. It is only through proper hygiene and safety practices in our food industries, that we can prevent the contamination of food by harmful bacteria, viruses, and pathogens that cause illnesses and dangerous diseases.

Olam Agri’s Grain Business, operators of a multimillion wheat mill factory in Tema and a leading manufacturer of wheat flour, has, over the years, demonstrated ample commitment to the highest food quality and safety standards, and in 2021, achieved the Food Safety Standard Certification (FSSC)22000.

It is on this score that we have Baibhav Biswas, Business Head of Olam Agri’s Grains Business in Ghana, to share with us some insights into the baking industry in Ghana and also highlight some of the key initiatives by Olam Agri in promoting food safety and hygiene in the country.

Interviewer: How would you describe the baking industry in Ghana?

Baibhav: Significantly, Ghana’s baking industry occupies a distinct position, characterized by its rich tradition and culture, particularly, within the breakfast economy. According to a report by Statista, revenue in the bread and bakery product market will amount to 4.43 billion USD in 2024, and it is expected to grow annually by 7.65% between 2024 and 2028.

The baking industry plays a crucial role in the breakfast economy, providing the population with staple foods like bread, which form the very foundation of many Ghanaian meals. Today’s market is primarily driven by convenience, accessibility, and nutrition profile, as there has been a growing preference for healthy, organic, and all-natural baked food, produced under good quality.

Interviewer: What would you identify as some of the pressing issues in the industry that you think need urgent attention?

Baibhav: The industry operates in a system that is highly fragmented, constrained by limited capital, the use of outdated equipment, and critical issues relating to hygiene and safety. These factors contribute to operational inefficiencies and increased costs, ultimately impacting both producers and consumers.

To ensure the growth and sustainability of Ghana’s baking industry, it is imperative to address the existing challenges head-on. Without intervention, these issues threaten to stifle progress and hinder the industry’s ability to meet the evolving needs of consumers.

Interviewer: It has been reported that Olam Agri in Ghana has launched the Grains Hygiene Standard Management (GHSM) initiative to help improve the hygiene situation of bakers. Can you tell us more about the program?

Baibhav: Recognizing the pivotal role of hygiene in ensuring food safety and consumer confidence, our Grains business, which is the leading producer of flour and wheat-based products in the country, initiated the Grains Hygiene Standard Management (GHSM) Program in collaboration with the Food and Drugs Authority and Twentyth Consult, a food and beverage consultancy firm in Ghana.

This novel initiative aims to bring bakers across the nation together under a comprehensive framework, to promote cleanliness and hygiene practices to tackle the problem of fragmentation and safeguard both the integrity of the products and the health of consumers.

The GHSM program encompasses a range of initiatives designed to elevate hygiene standards across the baking industry. This includes the provision of workshops and training sessions to enhance baking practices and improve hygiene conditions among bakers. Additionally, the GHSM program offers incentives, including reward schemes for bakeries that demonstrate exceptional adherence to hygiene protocols under the program.

Interviewer: The GHSM program is indeed groundbreaking. We have not seen any company do something like this in the industry. Now, how do you ensure the sustainability of this initiative?

Baibhav: Central to the initiative is the establishment of standardized parameters for evaluating hygiene practices. Dedicated third-party hygiene controllers work closely with bakeries to ensure compliance with these standards, providing guidance and support where they are needed. By fostering a culture of accountability, the program seeks to instill confidence in both industry stakeholders and consumers.

We have over 800 bakers from Accra, Kumasi, and Takoradi who participated in the maiden edition of the program’s annual award scheme. Some 141 bakeries from these centers received certification for improving hygiene standards in their operations, 35 bakeries stood out as the most compliant and were ranked as 4-Star Bakery Operators. So far, we are very impressed with the interest from bakers across the country. We are also working on expanding its coverage across the country over time. We are projecting over 1000 bakeries nationwide to participate in next year’s program.

Interviewer: By way of conclusion, what do you think is the future of the Bakery Industry? What are your general observations about the growth of the industry in Ghana?  

Baibhav: As a community, we cannot rely solely on the government and its agencies to initiate productive change. I believe that stakeholders must take an active role in problem-solving. The GHSM program is an initiative we can hold on to, build upon, and improve the hygiene situation of our bakers while improving food security in the country. With this program, we can ensure that the country’s rich culinary heritage thrives.

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