California recently passed a new glove law that will go into effect over the next six months. It requires that chefs must wear gloves when preparing foods and that there must not be any barehanded contact. Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation which included the statement, “food employees shall not contact exposed, ready-t0-eat food with their bare hands.”
Most chefs are not happy with the new requirement. If you’ve never cooked in a commercial kitchen and/or aren’t really an avid home cook it may not seem like an unreasonably request. Surely wearing gloves will mean fewer cases of contaminated food and less food borne illness, right?
Gloves Can Nurture Unsanitary Habits
One of the problems with wearing gloves is that people get out of the habit of regular hand washing. They can’t feel any liquids or food residue on heir hands so it is easy to forget to wash or change gloves in the chaos of a busy kitchen. In an environment where speed is everything gloves have the potential to cost the staff precious minutes. Even though the gloves are meant for single use the truth is that it’s easy to overlook the need to change gloves when moving from one chore to the next. In fact, rather than reducing food borne illnesses it could actually nurture the bad habits that would increase it.
It seems the chefs who have the biggest problems are those that plate fresh produce and those who specialize in sushi. Sushi rice is sticky and adheres to the gloves. Additionally, the gloves reduce sensitivity in your fingertips which makes it even more difficult to create the intricate details of the sushi rolls.
One Size Fits All Doesn’t Fit Everyone
Another problem is the one size fits all wording of the legislation. What makes sense for a fast food worker does not make sense for a chef that spent time in culinary school and is working in a five star restaurant. Chefs are generally out of high school and rarely do they text their friends and Snap-Chat while preparing a plate. If you watch a chef at work you’ll see he washes his hands numerous times. It’s more than a habit — it’s like breathing.
Sometimes one size fits all doesn’t really fit everyone.
So what is this new regulation going to loo like in action?
Imagine you’ve gone to your favorite eatery for dinner. You order iced tea with lemon and a salad to go along with your entree. Your server must put gloves on, make your tea, and the bring it to the table. She will then need to change gloves and fix the salad. If your plate requires garnish she’ll have to change gloves and do that. If she has five tables per hour, and an average of four people per table, she may change her gloves nearly 500 times per day. Not only does that take a lot of time but it also costs the restaurant more in operating expenses — gloves are not cheap. Now, multiply that by even ten employees and you can see the problem.
It’s just not very realistic, nor is it good for the environment that the state of California tries so hard to protect.
What Does This Mean for You?
Bottom line is that if you are not in California you are not likely to be impacted by this new law — at least at the moment. It is just at the state level. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on these types of things when they come up in other states because it might not be too long before you are dealing with it in your state.