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Traceability of Bread Starters

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Posted 08 November 2018 - 10:08 PM

A lot of our breads use starters. (For non-bakers, that's essentially when you mix your flour and water together and allow it to naturally grow yeast and other microorganisms that contribute to the flavor. It is replenished on a regular basis with more water and flour to keep it growing.) Our starter is constantly and continually kept and used as an ingredient in our bread in place of yeast.


Anyways, my question is...from a traceability standpoint, what's the best way track the flour going into each batch of bread? At what point would the batch be all "new" or "different" flours? Has anyone dealt with this?


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Posted 08 November 2018 - 10:40 PM

This is basically the same as bulk material traceability for ingredients that are in silos or storage tanks where lots are mixed.
This has been a problem in the baking industry for years. Really, all you can do is log the lot number of the flour when you feed the starter. 


Then, if there is an issue with a particular lot of flour, you pretty much have to recall everything produced after the first use of that lot of flour.

Since it's bread, the shelf life is probably around 14 days or so, so the amount of product that would have to be recalled would be relatively small.

The real problem, of course is that you would have to discard all of your starter. And that would be a killer.
A previous place I worked at had a rye sour that was over 50 years old. I imagine it would be fairly easy in the modern world to recreate the actual "Mother", but when part of your culture is the fact that you have used the same starter for X years, especially in a family owned bakery, it would be tough.



Gerard H.

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Posted 09 November 2018 - 10:00 AM

Dear Rebudke,


In addition to what has been said above, you can calculate the concentrations of the previous batches present in the current bread starter. For example:


Bread starter 100 kg --> Composition, let's say 80 kg flour batch 1 + 20 kg water


If you always replenish when there is 20 kg remaining Bread starter, you know this is composed of 16 kg of flour batch 1 + 4 kg water

You will need to add 64 kg of flour batch 2 and 16 kg water to have a new 100 kg


This new 100 kg is composed of:


64 kg flour batch 2

16 kg flour batch 1

20 kg water


Next time when there is 20 kg Bread starter left, you know that it's composed of 20 % of the above quantities, so: 12.8 kg flour batch 2, 3.2 kg flour batch 1 and 4 kg water. When you add 64 kg of flour batch 3 and 16 kg water to obtain 100 kg Bread starter, the new 100 kg is composed of:


64 kg flour batch 3

12.8 kg flour batch 2

3.2 kg flour batch 1

20 kg water


By repeating this calculation you will see that at a certain moment, the quantity of flour batch 1 becomes theoretically insignificant in your finished product. It allows you also to calculate the concentration of flour batch X in your finished product.


Another point to add, in the case of batches that are used for such long periods and present in almost all your products, is to be 100 % sure of the quality (GMOs, organic) and the food safety (toxins, micro-organisms, allergens) of the used flour. Any problems with the flour can put your business at risk, it's important to be aware of that.


Kind regards,


Gerard Heerkens

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