Confectionary is the art of making sweet items, that uses sugar as its major ingredient. Confectionery products are considered as one of mankind’s oldest food staples; both as sustenance and enjoyment. Confectionary products are generally termed confections which refer to candy in North America and sweet in the United Kingdom. The preferred type of confectionery varies from one region to the other depending upon consumer likings, regulatory norms, and other factors such as the economy. The global sweets & confectionery market is growing at a rate faster than ever due to an increase in disposable income and a rise in the demand for products such as dark chocolate and new innovative products among the urban population.
Confections and their types
Confections are sweet products that are rich in sugar and other specialty ingredients that make them more palatable and appealing in terms of texture, color, and flavor. They are low in micronutrients and protein but high in calories. They may/may not be fat-free. Confectionery products are remarkably diverse, varying in size, shape, flavors, color, and hardness. In the modern world, confectionery is categorized under the following categories based on its commercial manufacturing methods and product profiling:
- Sugar-Based: Sugar confectionery includes sweets, candied nuts, chewing gum, pastillage, and other confections that are primarily made of sugar. Sugar confections include sweet, sugar-based foods, which are usually eaten as a snack food.
- Chocolate Based: In these products, chocolate or Cocoa is an integral part of sugar. Examples include dark chocolate, white chocolate, milk chocolate, etc.
Confections are defined by the presence of sweeteners. These are usually sugars, but it is possible to buy sugar-free sweets as well, such as sugar-free bubble gum and chocolates. The most common sweetener used for the manufacturing of confection is table sugar, which is chemically a disaccharide called sucrose which is obtained from sugarcane and sugar beets. Commercial confectionery is sweetened by a variety of syrups obtained by hydrolysis of starch. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), another source of sweetening agent that may be used as a component of candy bars, is derived from the processing of corn starch with heat, caustic soda, and/or hydrochloric acid plus the conversion by enzymatic activity. Other sugars and sugar substitutes such as dextrose, fructose, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol may also be used.
Hazards in Confection Industry
- Biological Hazards
Until the 1970s sugar and cocoa-based confections were regarded as a microbiologically safe product as processing conditions were thought to be severe enough to destroy any pathogenic microorganisms brought in by untreated materials, and further the low water activity of it also does not support the growth of microflora. But after the first outbreak of Salmonella, which was related to the consumption of confections catches the eyes of all regulatory authorities and alerts them. Since then, Salmonella is considered a primary causative agent for low moisture confection products. Further analyses and investigations of the involved foods revealed that very minute amounts of living Salmonella seem to be sufficient to cause illnesses.
Other microorganisms of concern are Zygosaccharomyces rouxii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae which belong to the class of osmophilic yeast. These are considered as the primary causative agent responsible for the spoilage of high fructose corn syrup-based based confections which are manufactured enzymatically.
- Chemical Hazard
Potential chemical hazards are quite limited, depending on agricultural, storage, and distribution practices. Sugar cane, beet crops, and their products may be subjected to residual contamination by the misuse application of pesticides. Lead may also be introduced into the candy through improper drying, storing, or grinding of the ingredients and through wrappers that use lead-based ink which leaches into candy.
- Physical Hazard
They are not especially susceptible to physical hazards, although occasionally stones or other hard objects can pose a problem in products containing raisins or nuts. Foreign body (metal pieces or shavings) contamination can occur from equipment used for intensive processing of candies.
Candy is often recognized as one of the leading causes of food choking hazards in children under the age of 3. Due to the packaging, shape, slipperiness, and consistency, the candy posed a potentially serious choking risk, particularly to infants, children, and the elderly.
Control and Prevention of Hazards associated with Confections
- The production of cocoa powder, chocolate, and part of confectionery products is a dry operation that does not destroy Salmonella or other vegetative organisms. Therefore, the quality of the raw materials used during manufacturing is particularly important and will determine the quality of finished products. Simple visual checks at reception are useful tools to guarantee raw materials are of good quality.
- The presence of condensation in containers or of spoiled packaging material represents a risk. Hygienic conditions at the reception area of bulk materials, such as liquid chocolate masses or sugar, are important; pipes and valves, as well as air-intake of pneumatic transport systems, should be controlled.
- An efficient zoning plan must be there for strict separation of high-risk from the low-risk raw areas for avoiding cross-contamination.
- Installation metal detection systems for the control of metallic hazards in finished goods.
- The packing material of candies must contain a note for consumers, advising them to cut the product into smaller pieces before serving it to small children.
- Appropriate validation studies should be performed to ensure that (heat) treatments, meant to control microbiological hazards, are effective.
- Processed raw materials should be chosen carefully and purchased from suppliers working according to good manufacturing practices (GMP) and applying an effective HACCP system which can be verified by discussions and audits.
- Rework should be handled as a high-risk raw material and it should be clearly identified and strictly separated from waste. Preventive measures must be adopted during collecting, handling, and storage.
- Water should be of good microbiological quality to avoid the risk of contamination through micro leaks in double-walled systems: pipes, tanks, and equipment.
- The air directly introduced in the product or in zones where the product is exposed must be filtered to ensure the safety of the product. Monitoring is best done by regular microbiological analyses of filters and water traps and by visual checks ensuring their integrity and function.
No doubt, the future looks bright and sunny for the global confectionery market. It will be interesting to see how manufacturers continue to re-invent themselves to cope up with the rising expectations to fulfill the demands of the market and ensuring the safety of those products.