No glove, no love: California edition

California, home of the Burrito Box, a robotic no-hands-Mexican-meal-assembly machine, is also the latest state to adopt a no bare hand contact rule. And the regulatory change requiring a barrier (or utensil) between flesh and food is, according to the L.A. Times, upsetting chefs and bartenders.549810

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others have evidence that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has used to support why keeping assumed-dirty hands off of food is a good idea. The simplified discourse is that food handlers are dirty; handwashing compliance is typically low; and, an easy way to take poor hygiene out of the mix is to legislate that hands can’t touch ready-to-eat foods — except this creates another compliance issue.

“The band-aid of a blanket glove regulation is potentially dangerous,” says Neal Fraser, chef-owner of BLD restaurant and Fritzi Dog. “People get into the tendency to not wash their hands. And environmentally it’s very unfriendly. It’s funny that at the same time L.A. institutes a plastic bag ban, there’s this.”

“For the most part I use gloves throughout my whole preparation process,” said Niki Nakayama, the chef of N/naka who makes sushi as part of her Japanese kaiseki-like meals, “and I have no problem wearing gloves for plating something. I’m on the fence about the cleanliness of gloves all the time.”

But most important for her, “making sushi is incredibly hard to do with gloves on. No. 1, the rice is so sticky, the rice would stick to the gloves undoubtedly. Plus you lose that sense of feel, which is everything in sushi making. You have to know exactly the right pressure to put on ingredients. Wearing a glove would hurt the product.”

It’s clear to me from the evidence that touching food with bare hands increase risk. While many fast-food companies have figured out how to take hands out of the process (as well as food contact surfaces), what’s not clear is which of the paths (glove or no-glove) is easier to skip for all food businesses. Some folks have shown that compliance is low because the tools aren’t there or there isn’t enough time. Others have shown that food handlers may not know consequences.

Having a reg is fine, more important is whether food businesses value the reasons behind it – and actually adapt their processes to comply.

This entry was posted in E. coli by Ben Chapman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.

6 thoughts on “No glove, no love: California edition

  1. I’m interested in your opinion on glove use as a blanket policy. I have always felt the a well washed hand was just as clean as a glove and while the glove may be clean to begin with, the loss of feeling means that you lose the frequent reminder that you need to wash your hands (or change gloves).

  2. I have been in a situation where gloves were worn to prep and plate the food, and then kept on to complete the transaction, which included handling money. Then, the worker went on to prep the next plate of food without changing the gloves. Knowing how filthy money (bills and coins) actually is, this really concerned me.

  3. Being a chef for many years (25), I have worked in several different food preparation business from cafe’s to hospital kitchens. During this time I have seen a fairly inconsistent use of gloves in the kitchen eg. a chef will make a hamburger patty with gloves, but will construct the finished cooked RTE burger by bare hands. Also the amount of time the gloves are uncovered and in a location that food debris fall into the box containing the gloves, which is a contamination issue. Making legislation to make wearing of gloves compulsory is not just a band-aid approach it gives a false sense of food hygiene, sure gloves can reduce contamination but so can good personal hygiene practices. And on the subject of utensil use, well as a chef I can say a high majority of chefs use the same utensil to handle the un-cooked product then RTE product, better training and resources are needed not quick fixes and un-productive legislation.

  4. I agree with Mark P. on this. A blanket glove policy isn’t the answer. I spend alot of time in the field working with employees in the food production arena, and when i discuss hand washing and glove changing…I hear answers that would frankly scare many people out there. Industry wide, we need to do a better job of educating food handlers on why personal hygiene is so important.

  5. Pingback: Pas de gants, pas d'amour : la nouvelle règle sur le port des gants se met en place en Californie. - Le Blog d'Albert Amgar - Un article de Le Blog d'Albert Amgar

  6. I have to admit I am caught in one of those catch 22 situations. I am all for any thing that cab give us an extra layer of protection. However, the article basically states that because hand hygiene is poor, then we need to use gloves. But if proper hand hygiene is not used, then the gloves could possibly be contaminated and basically useless (based on the information I have seen). If hand hygiene is the problem, then why do we not try to address the actual problem? I have said in the past that, again based on the information available to me, if proper hand hygien is performed, touching toast wirth bare hands should not be a major infraction anywhere (the math does not add up). However, as a cook by trade, I feel I must inform my other industry partners that the only reason we are faced with this type of action is because we refuse to admit that we actually have a problem. I fully understand the difficulties of getting our people to reach and maintain the levels of sanitation we really should be at, but every drunk driver believes they are fine and the only people who ever get hurt are the ones who were doing nothing more than going about their business. I think, and hope, that if we all put the customer first and work with what the science tells us, we can find solutions to the problems that plague us. Is it going to be easy, no! But Ido not want to be the cause of someone else’s suffering simply because I deluded myself into thinking everything was fine. We have to work together to find the solutions!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>