Hands off our food – California brings in law requiring chefs to wear gloves

Hand washing and hygiene more effective, says FSAI


Chefs in California are up in arms about a new state law that will oblige them to wear single-use gloves (or use utensils) when handling food that is ready to eat, such as bread, fruit and salads, cheese and cured meats, as well as when plating cooked foods.

The ruling, which aims to cut down on food-borne illnesses, applies across the board, from fast food outlets to fine dining establishments, and will be phased in over the next six months. It also applies to bar staff, who must wear gloves or use a utensil when handling any component going into a drink.

The move has raised environmental concerns as the gloves, which will have to be changed many times during a working day, are usually made of plastic. The move comes in the same month that Los Angeles became the latest US city to ban the free distribution of plastic bags in shops.

The gloves regulation will present specific challenges that many chefs feel will make it more difficult for them to do their job.

“We have a right to question regulations when they become unnecessarily difficult and add further layers of cost and waste,” says Ross Lewis chef/proprietor of Chapter One restaurant in Dublin.

Wade Murphy, president of Euro-toques Ireland and chef/proprietor of 1826 Adare says: “In an industry that is trying to get back to basics in styles and trends, this is a step too far from out-of-touch authorities. Never mind the added cost for the restaurants, I’m imagining now a young cook starting out in the industry in California never actually touching a piece of food with their hands. Safe food and good hygiene practices are extremely important, but I feel this is bureaucratic decision-making taken too far.”

Jane Ryder, press spokesperson for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, says: “European food regulations do not require food handlers to wear gloves, but it’s a question we get asked quite a lot.”

The FSAI website has the following guidelines. “Proper and frequent hand washing is critical to ensure safe food. Plastic gloves can be used but it is important to remember that gloves can be a source of contamination if certain rules are not followed: Hands must be clean before putting on gloves. Gloves must be changed regularly and properly disposed of. If gloves are used for certain duties such as cleaning, handling raw food, waste or money, they must always be disposed of before starting another activity.”