Why Is My Bartender Wearing Gloves?
Beginning July 01, you will see us wearing gloves, we tried to
extent our six month period. But we will wearing gloves after July
01, so don't freak out it is the law.
Year’s Day 2014 brought hundreds of new laws into effect in
California. Everything from new gun regulations to laws on fracking
and hands-free texting for teens went on the books. Tucked among
them was AB 1252, which codified Section 113961 of the
California Retail Food Code. The new law requires any food
worker who touches raw, cooked or “ready-to-eat” food, from a master
sushi chef to a prep cook to the guy cutting a lemon to put in your
vodka and tonic, to wear disposable gloves. This is similar to laws
in many other states, but none as big as California.
It’s not a surprise that many restaurant staffers and chefs were
upset about it. Many spoke freely about how the law would impede
their ability to cook and present food the way they’re used to. Some
complained about their tactile contact with food being impeded. Many
bartenders were especially upset, feeling that wearing disposable
gloves will ruin the burgeoning cocktail renaissance going on around
the state. Even though the state has allowed a six month roll-out
of the law, it’s clear many people feel it’s unnecessary and
But change is upsetting, even if it’s positive change. And
certainly, everyone wants to do everything within reason to prevent
food-borne illnesses. And if wearing gloves saves people from
sickness and possible long-lasting harm, isn’t it worth it?
When faced with a new piece of legislation related to a scientific
or medical matter, it’s important to be skeptical, but not just for
the sake complaining about it (though that can be quite cathartic).
And good skepticism means asking the right questions about it. Is
the law necessary? Is it a solution to a problem that’s not a
problem? Is it scientifically sound? Does solid research back it up?
Was it passed with the right intentions, or to satisfy a certain
interest group? Who benefits and how?
Again, let’s start with the baseline that food-borne illnesses are
bad. And using gloves when handling food is helpful, when done in
tandem with good hand washing. But laws that are pointless,
confusing, not needed and/or based on bad science are not good. And
in the case of AB 1252, it’s not clear that any answer to any
of the above questions merits the law’s existence. In fact, it’s
entirely possible that the law will do more harm than good, and
exacerbate the very problem it was written to solve.
For one thing, a host of difficult issues come with it. The law is
incredibly confusing and lacks clarity on who should be following it
and why. It seems written mostly for fast food workers, yet other
language makes it uncertain if it applies to anyone except those
serving “a highly susceptible population.” It promotes massive
waste, forcing restaurants to go through box after box of
environmentally unfriendly single-use gloves. There aren’t clear
guidelines on who needs to wear gloves and who doesn’t. It’s also
going to be virtually impossible to enforce, unless California is
keen on sending health inspectors into every place of business that
sells food on a moment’s notice.
But the biggest problem with AB 1252 is that it doesn’t really do
anything to stop food-borne illness that kitchen best practices
already don’t. Anyone who touches food should already be vigorously
washing their hands with hot water and soap, as well as keeping raw
meat or chicken away from raw vegetables or fruits.
The vast majority of prep cooks, chefs and bartenders at
reputable restaurants are doing this, not because it’s the law,
but because it’s the hygienic thing to do. Likewise, anyone who
cooks at home should also be doing this, and almost half of all food
poisoning comes from home cooks making themselves sick. No law can
do anything about that.
In fact, if you wanted to reduce the likelihood of food poisoning or
illness, forcing food handlers and cooks to wear disposable gloves
might be one of the last things you’d want to do. A 2010 study from
the Journal of Food Protection says as much, stating in its abstract
[W]hen properly used, gloves can substantially reduce opportunities
for food contamination. However, gloves have limitations and may
become a source of contamination if they are punctured or improperly
used. Experiments conducted in clinical and dental settings have
revealed pinhole leaks in gloves. Although such loss of glove
integrity can lead to contamination of foods and surfaces, in the
food industry improper use of gloves is more likely than leakage to
lead to food contamination and outbreaks. […] Occlusion of the skin
during long-term glove use in food operations creates the warm,
moist conditions necessary for microbial proliferation and can
increase pathogen transfer onto foods through leaks or exposed skin
or during glove removal. The most important issue is that glove use
can create a false sense of security, resulting in more high-risk
behaviors that can lead to cross-contamination when employees are
not adequately trained.
It’s absurd to expect that food handlers are going to be able to
change their gloves for every meal they prepare, especially at peak
dining times. And those gloves are going to carry food particles
from plate to plate and meal to meal, creating a mass transit system
for microbes. In addition, gloves get hot and sweaty, and when they
puncture or tear, contamination becomes likely.
Also, food preparation itself isn’t the only source of food
contamination. Unclean utensils, improper cooking temperatures and
contaminated food itself sicken as many people as poor hygiene does.
And this new law doesn’t address any of those.
AB 1252 passed the California State assembly and senate unanimously,
and it doesn’t appear there was any particular lobbying done for it.
It’s not a power grab by Big Glove or the globalist controllers.
It’s a law meant to protect people, and tries to do so in good
faith. But it also appears to be unnecessary, inconsistent,
confusing and potentially harmful. Given the findings of reputable
research, along with the law’s seemingly arbitrary nature, it’s
reasonable to think it won’t end up protecting anyone. Assuming it’s
followed to the letter (which it won’t be), it might actually make
more people sick.
Not all laws warrant skepticism, but this one does. And the more I
look into it, the more skeptical I get. From a scientific point of
view, AB 1252 simply seems like a solution that creates more