Oregon dismisses glove requirement for restaurant workers
July 12th, 2012
06:00 PM ET
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Last year, when Oregon Health Authority officials announced they would adopt the 2009 FDA Retail Food Code, restaurateurs suddenly faced a piece of legislation that would prohibit foodservice workers to touch prepared food with their bare hands. The gloves came off.

The no-bare-hands rule was originally supposed to go into effect on July 1, but Oregon public health officials delayed the decision because of public debate that these new safety rules were not actually safe.

The rule would have prohibited food handlers from contacting “exposed, ready-to-eat food” with their bare hands. Instead, any contact would have to be made with “suitable utensils,” including deli tissue, spatulas, tongs and single-use gloves.

Wednesday, regulators of Oregon's Foodborne Illness Prevention Program announced that “…at this time, the ‘No Bare Hand Contact’ section of new food safety rules will not be adopted.”

Among the complaints raised by food experts: gloves give foodservice handlers a false sense of cleanliness, create more plastic waste (especially since plastic bags are banned in Oregon) and add a supplementary cost for restaurateurs.

“While the regulation is being put into place to prevent norovirus contamination, the bottom line is that gloves alone will not prevent the problem without being used in combination with hand washing,” says Mindy Brashears, a professor of food safety at Texas Tech University. Norovirus is what laymen more commonly refer to as food poisoning.

“We would not want an employee to simply put on a pair of gloves after using the restroom; we also need them to wash their hands. Covering up contaminated hands is not the answer, removing the contamination is important,” she says.

Oregon-based chefs like Adam Sappington and John Gorham agree.

Sappington, the executive chef at The Country Cat Dinner House & Bar in Portland, regards the now-void ban as “crazy.”

“I got a little philosophical about the whole idea. It takes away one of the senses of cooking,” he says. “It’s more likely that you’re going to wash your hands less, and moving from hot to cold, hot to cold in gloves, things are just going to fester.”

Gorham, the chef of Toro Bravo, Tasty n Sons and Interurban in Portland, says while there is a time and a place for gloves, requiring them at all times is downright dangerous.

“As much as people are fighting against the gloves, I spend a lot of money on gloves,” says Gorham, who says his staff does wear gloves when butchering and cleaning fish and shellfish.

“Most of the gloves are made out of a rubber product and they break down with animal fat,” he says, noting plastic's potential to leach chemicals into meat.

“I’ll do what I think is best, but I’m not going to obey a law that will actually harm you,” he says.

Members of Oregon’s Foodborne Illness Prevention Program are hopeful that industry intuition, like Gorham's, will help avoid fisticuffs in the future.

In addition to dismissing the bare-hand rule, the program’s website stated it will, in the next few months, allow restaurateurs, chefs, government inspectors and interested consumers to form a workgroup and have a hand in future food safety decisions.

soundoff (194 Responses)
  1. Name*arn harris

    If the food handler washes bien hands badger using the toilet,there must be a certain time to do it in plus how is thebsoap dispensed.and did he clean under the fingernails! Then what type of during of hands idndafe.I have seen the foodbhandlers sometimes.do this correctly.but they open and close the.faucets and open the door with bare hands and how hot n does the water have to be..then they put on gloves. It gets hot,in the kitchen, so they wipe the sweat off their brow with the gloves and do not change the gloves..what's the answer?

    May 23, 2014 at 2:43 am |
  2. Lisa

    If the handler washes their hands, I don't see how a glove will offer more protection. To pull the gloves from the box and put them on, seems to me whatever is on one's hands will be transferred to gloves. Waste of time and money. Not to mention it adds to all the other single use trash we accumulate.
    We have so many regulations on this and that. A majority of countries don't dictate how a place of business must prepare their food. Guess what? They haven't gotten sick and/or died any more than those in the U.S.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  3. CindyH

    Just keep latex gloves off my food. 8% of the population is allergic to latex ... more of health care workers. 3 restaurants have almost killed me by serving me food touched with latex gloves - even after I inquired about latex in the kitchen. So clean bare hands are great by me!

    July 30, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  4. tim

    I worked in 5 star restaurant ,and we had to wear litlle plastic gloves.IMPORTANT PROCEDURE;1.WASH HANDS,,2 .DRY HANDS(because if you dont dry you cannot put on gloves,they stick to skin).3.EVERYTIME YOU TOUCH YOUR NOSE,MOUTH,FACE,GO TO BATHROOM,HANDLE RAW CHICKEN FISH,TOUCH DIRTY THINGS,CLEANING CHEMICALS-CHANGE GLOVES,PUT NEW ONES..4.NUMBER 3 IS VERY DIFFICULT TO FOLLOW WHEN YOU HAVE 100 GUEST WAITING FOR FOOD (we actualy catch a guy coming from toilet with gloves still on,u can imagine what he was holding there lol..my advice...NO GLOVES,BUT WORKERS SHOULD WASHG HANDS AND HAVE RUGS WITH BLECH WATER AVAILABLE FOR WIPING HANDS..

    February 17, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Steve

      Yes I know it's a major hassle. I suppose the only real solution for me is to only frequent closed kitchen restaurants and trust the chef will keep it clean. No doubt I have countless times happily consumed fine dishes prepared by perfectly washed, clean bare hands and never got sick at all. If anything, I am convinced that whatever doesn't kill me will indeed make me stronger. You live life in a sterile bubble and you will never build up any immunities. My real point that I tried to make in my earlier soundoff was it just looks wreckless. So if I never see bare hands on the food I eat- I'm fine!

      February 17, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  5. Steve

    I am not a germophobe but really, the wife and I watch a lot of cooking shows and it's just disgusting to see high class chefs getting bare hands all willie nillie on the food and then serving it. I think it makes them feel more intimate with the art form they create. Just use tongs and wear gloves! The food will stand up just the same as an artful presentation and while sure, they can argue about the transmission of germs, gloves or not, I'll feel better about eating it!

    February 16, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
  6. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    There is absolutely no difference between a glove surface and the surface of your skin. I've seen employees wear gloves and do things outside of food service, but have never seen anyone ever wash their gloved hands before getting back to food service.

    And quit being flippin germophobes. Do you realize 9/10 guys don't wash their hands after taking a leak? Did you know that about the guy you were holding hands with at the bar the other night? Or whatever you were doing? Trust me, I know. I'm a guy and have seen many men leave the restroom without even looking at the sink. That hasn't killed you yet. And if it has, be happy. No more taxes, job, or threat of ill health. LOL

    January 23, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  7. Susie

    After reading through the comments that are pro glove, I just can't help but wonder if these folks use disposable gloves in their homes when they prepare their own food. As a long time restaurant worker and manager, I can honestly say that my stomach turns when I see cooks and chefs wearing gloves. One cannot wash and sanitize gloved hands like one can with bare hands. The gloves can get nicks and dings that trap food particles until notices. Just imagine one tiny slit that gets contaminated. It is so small that that the worker does not realize it is there! When proper hand washing procedures are followed, a food worker will wash his/her hands after contact with different foods, raw versus cooked, clean versus dirty tools, etc.

    Commons sense folks!

    January 23, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
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