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California Assembly Likely to Repeal ‘No Bare Hands’ Rule

After California’s new regulation restricting food workers from handling ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands sparked an outcry, state legislators are trying to take it back.

The bill to repeal Section 113961 of the Health and Safety Code unanimously passed the Assembly’s Health Committee on Tuesday and will now go to a floor vote.

“A vast number of our local restaurants and bars raised serious concerns with this prohibition after the passage of this new law,” said Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) during the committee hearing.

He cited reports of inconsistent implementation of the exemption process, the expense of purchasing and disposing of thousands of gloves, and questions about gloves offering a false sense of security and increasing the risk of cross-contamination.

“If these concerns were raised before we passed AB 1252, the bare hand contact provision would have been eliminated from the bill,” Pan said.

The bill to repeal the controversial provision “resets this discussion” by replacing the prohibition on bare hand contact with food to the previous language which directed employees to “minimize” contact.

California health officials were planning to give restaurants six months to comply with the new rule before handing out violations.

The “no bare hands” rule is included in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s model food code and has been adopted by many other states.

© Food Safety News
  • jayne nosari

    It’s disappointing that they don’t understand the importance of no bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. I certainly hope public health officials will be able to articulate the need for this regulation to the legislators. It’s not a “glove rule” – it’s all about prevention.

    • Jow Blow

      More often than not gloves lead to a false sense of security when it comes to handling food or food contact equipment. Additionally, most are prone to tearing and breaking apart where you can end up with glove material in the food itself. I have seen both accounts many times in my experience in the food industry. This is why, as a QA Director, I focus more on proper hand-washing and food handling efforts than maintaining a glove use policy. Ultimately, it comes down to consistent and proper hand-washing along with proper handling of food and food contact equipment.

    • v.80

      I work in the food industry…honestly ive seen a co-worker touch her hair and face, put on gloves, touch the pastries, then her face again, adjust her hair then continued to touch the pastries instead of washing hands.
      As said gloves give a false sense of clean. A clean bare hand is better than a dirty glove. Proper hygiene and proper handwashing is more preventive then the glove that everyone can see thats covered in bacteria. People want a more visible sense of security, in this case gloves that they can see workers wearing but unfortunately make things worse

  • Tara

    The next time you visit a place where the employees wear gloves, watch carefully. That person will use a gloved hand to handle raw food, then work the register, then wipe his/her brow, then clean the counter, then move on to another raw food, without ever changing gloves. And, because you are already wearing a glove, there is a disincentive to taking it off and putting on a new one when you go back to food handling. There is no question that proper training in hand washing and observation are crucial to food safety. I’ll take a washed hand over a glove any day!

    • flame

      I always tell them to wash their hands in my presence and to change their gloves in my presence in places like Subway, various pizza parlors like Papa’s Murphy’s, any deli I visit(including supermarkets), for pastries, donuts, chocolates any where I can.

      • Sarah

        Well aren’t you a pain in the ass. If your so worried about dirty hands maybe you should prepare your own meals and food. Your presence? Who do you think you are? Someone who should be glad they didn’t spit in your food while they were at it.

  • Jess N

    The false sense of security is a big one. I’ve watched food workers handle money and other non-food items with the same gloves they were wearing while handling my food. No one puts hand-sanitizer on gloves between touching items, and once the worker is wearing a pair, they feel like they have gloves on so everything’s fine. The only person being truly protected, here, is the person wearing the gloves!

  • flame

    I personally prefer gloves but I do know just having on gloves is not enough especially if they don’t change them and/or demand they change them. Food handlers that are ‘unhygienic’ will continue to be unhygienic unless management strictly enforces it and fires anyone who doesn’t follow protocol. Also unless their is a major food poisoning incident that can’t be traced to them based on unsafe food handling in anyway.

  • flame

    Establishment that handles food should have a visible sink for hand washing so customers can see them wash their with soap in addition to wearing gloves. I’m referring to places like fast food, some pizza parlors, pastry shops sub shops, deli’s where the customer can see what’s going on.

  • flame

    Many of the folks who work in the food industry that are objecting are some of the most unhygienic chefs, and food handlers. Repeatedly washing their hands is already a bother to this folks and wearing and changing gloves is just another bothersome nuisance. It’s all about ‘time and speed’ at the customers expense of having their food handled clean and safely.

    • Joe Blow

      No, it is about unnecessary costs and potential added risk. Gloves bring a false sense of security to people wearing them; it is inherent. Couple that with the potential where gloves can break, or tear, and then two things happen:

      1. Glove material (foreign material) can get into the food.
      2. All of the sweat buildup from the hand inside the glove comes pouring out. Mind you this has been incubating inside of the glove. Would you enjoy some of that on your food? Probably not.

      More of a focus on proper hand-washing is more effective than using gloves. Use of gloves are just an excuse for people to “correct the issue”, but it does nothing. As you state, if hand-washing is a bother to people what is going to make the food handling any safer when they go to use gloves? Think about it.

  • flame

    Washed hands mean nothing unless they’re washed correctly with clean water, lots of friction, a certain amount of time and with clean soap from a clean soap dispenser. Also the nails must but be clean and short. Absolutely ‘no’ unbroken skin any where on the hands and nails.

  • Greg Stern MD

    The gloves are mainly to prevent food service workers with infectious diarrhea (or with asymptomatic shedding) from contaminating food by the fecal-oral route. Because people may not wash their hands thoroughly in the bathroom, it adds a layer of protection, even though they may handle money or cross contaminate while working with food. It still takes good training and good supervision by food service managers to minimize risk. The idea that gloves give a false sense of security may be true, but thinking that people will wash their hands more thoroughly if they are not required to wear gloves when handling food is perhaps wishful thinking. I am concerned that repealing the no bare hand contact rules will increase foodborne illness in California.