Supermarket bakery workers are at risk from work related asthma, according to a team of academic researchers.

A study by Imperial College London and the Royal Brompton Hospital found that up to 9% of bakers, 4% of bakery managers and 3% bakery assistants may have symptoms of asthma caused by working in in-store bakeries.

This was the first time a study had been conducted in supermarket bakeries, one of the researchers, Dr Andrew Brant, said. “Although the extent of bakers’ asthma in supermarket bakeries is comparable with levels found in other traditional bakery settings, the research shows that this is a new occupational health issue which management and bakery staff need to be aware of.,” he said. “It is especially important given the high and increasing proportion of baking that now takes place in UK supermarkets.”

The research team looked at 239 employees from 20 in-store bakeries for a supermarket chain. They found 15% of employees reported work-related asthma symptoms, and 26% had work-related eye or nose problems.

They also found high levels of sensitisation to ingredients used in the baking process.
“While bakers’ asthma is unlikely to prove life threatening it can have a significant impact on quality of life, leading to poorer health and forcing most to change jobs,” said Dr Paul Cullinan from Imperial College London and Royal Brompton Hospital.