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 potentially harmful.
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 that:
[When 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
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
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 problems.