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Hawaii Could Follow California by Repealing Glove Law

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
  • DocB

    Gloves are not the problem, training is. Prior to the glove law in California, I was in a dinner and watched an employee crack eggs. wipe his hands on a rag and butter toast. I have no doubt that if this employee was wearing gloves he would have done the same thing but with the gloves on. We can’t stop all exposure to food pathogens but washing between handling raw food and ready to ear food is Food Safety 101.
    By the way, my favorite Sushi spot uses gloves all the time and is one of the most highly rated and successful Sushi spots around (training).

  • underthewybluesky

    Yikes!!! I can already see the cases of Hepatitis A going up. Gloves shouldn’t make a difference to a good Sushi chef and thats not the group of people that has me concerned.

  • FoodLover

    Our community had several outbreaks of HepA until a no bare hand contact rule was passed. While proper training is imperative, we can’t ignore the fact that hand washing is not 100% effective. With Norovirus, employees may be infectious before and after symptoms clear. An infectious person can shed millions of viral particles in their feces, but all it takes is 10 to pass along the virus. With HepA, food handlers are most infectious weeks before they are symptomatic. Since employees may not know that they are sick/infectious, proper hand washing and not touching ready-to-eat food are the best protections.

  • Taz

    It’s food safety. farmers wear glove to milk cows – the milk will be cooled then pasteurized and processed in various products. People handling meat in stores must wear gloves, aprons, hair nets. Yes I expect the person working with food in a restaurant to wear gloves, and hair nets. and have training about food safety and have scrupulous hygiene. I don’t want to know what might be under the nails of anyone. I don’t want nail polish in food either. – even if there might be some in my own food at home once in a blue moon (I don’t wear it)

  • CaptainObvious

    Gloves can carry bacteria and spread diseases just as well as bare hands can. I work at a Japanese restaurant and the sushi chefs there agree that wearing gloves not only slows them down and creates more trash, but also doesn’t feel traditional. The only positive effect wearing gloves provides is like some people said, if the person handling the foods already has an infectious disease. But I wouldn’t want someone like that handling my food regardless. IMO the solution is making people aware of the risks of eating foods prepared by bare hands