Cost concerns and general opposition may prompt Hawaii to try and follow California by repealing new state health rules requiring food service workers to use utensils or gloves when preparing sushi or other ready-to-eat foods.
The new rules just went into effect July 21 and have already drawn criticism from restaurant managers who say that wearing gloves while preparing certain foods is problematic, especially for sushi chefs.
“There’s a lot of frustration. They’re trying really hard to feel the rice, the dab of wasabi, the texture of the fish,” said Chad Yang, general manager of the Morimoto Waikiki Japanese restaurant in Honolulu.
Other critics say that having to use disposable gloves while preparing food just creates more garbage and slows down their work. The rules do allow a food establishment to apply for an exemption from the glove requirement, but only if handwashing practices are meticulously documented.
Mitch’s Fish Market and Sushi bar applied for an exemption, and the owner indicated that his staff intends to follow the associated requirements.
“They can’t get a feel for the rice, firstly. Secondly, they don’t want any cross-contamination with different species of fish. So every time they cut a different fish, they do wash their hands,” Craig Mitchell said.
A food safety consultant on Oahu noted that his business is booming since the new rules went into effect.
“Let’s just say my business is up quite a bit this year over last year. Everybody is panicking and I have people on wait lists all over the place,” said Tom Frigge.
Despite the criticism, state health officials say there are no plans to change the no-bare-hands rule when preparing ready-to-eat foods.
Just last month, the state assembly in California passed legislation repealing its glove law and replacing it with less-restrictive food safety regulations. Gov. Jerry Brown subsequently signed the repeal bill just before the new rules were to go into effect on July 1.© Food Safety News