Food safety: no bare hands

Dr of BBQ
Filet Mignon
2012/07/10 08:22:56
Food safety: Look ma, no bare hands The double-hand washing requirement for foodservice workers is about to become history in Oregon, upgraded to a rule that restaurant personnel must wear disposable gloves when prepping and plating foods. Yet even some food safety experts aren’t sure all-gloves-all-the-time is a good idea. 
“The idea that using rubber gloves is going to stop people from getting sick is ludicrous,” he says. “For it to be safe, every time you touch something, you’d have to take your gloves off, wash your hands, and put on new gloves.”
Ricker isn’t exaggerating. In fact, he’s got it exactly right. Swapping old gloves for new ones multiple times each day is the cornerstone of the proposed new rule. The Food Code Fact Sheet #1 put out by the Oregon Health Authority says foodservice workers:
 “…should change gloves at the following times:
• as soon as they become soiled or torn;
• before beginning a different task; and
• after handling raw meat, fish, or poultry and before handling ready-to-eat food.”
Strict adherence to the new rule would cause restaurant kitchen workers to stop whatever prep work they’re doing, strip off and dispose of their current pair of single-use gloves, go over to their kitchen’s dedicated hand sink to wash their hands and then pull on a new pair of glove dozens of times each working day.
Who’s right? We like the perspective given in a paper authored by O. Peter Snyder, Ph.d., “A ‘Safe Hands’ Hand Wash Program For Retail Food Operations.”
“Some states, such as New York and local or city ordinances have made glove wearing by food workers mandatory, in spite of the fact that there is no documented evidence that food prepared and served by people wearing gloves is safer than food prepared by people who use effective hand washing procedures. No regulatory agency has been able to force the food industry through regulation and inspection to ensure that all food workers wash their hands because they have no way to measure if hands have been washed. Therefore, some regulatory agencies have chosen to enforce glove use by food workers.…”
Snyder’s full paper is the most comprehensive document on hand washing we’ve seen yet. The most interesting detail in it is this one: “The use of a fingernail brush when hands are washed provides over 350 times greater removal of transient organisms from the hands than hand washing without a brush.”  That seems like an option health departments would be eager to explore before going all in on disposable gloves.
But going all in is what at least a few health departments are doing. Keep an eye on how the new Oregon rule plays out; it might be a preview of new regulations that could be put in place in your state, county or city.
Edit to correct link
post edited by Dr of BBQ - 2012/07/10 08:27:04
Filet Mignon
Re:Food safety: no bare hands 2012/07/10 08:50:10
I think I may have related this experience once before ...
I was at a spotless, well-run, Mexican restaurant where I saw a woman make a scene because the guy who took the money she paid with and then touched the tortilla for her burrito without washing his hands ... she complained to the manager ... she made a scene at how disgusting it was to people in line behind her.
Anyhow, the manager made a big scene about giving her a new tortilla with perfectly clean hands ... and then ... the customer then proceeded to eat her food with the same (unwashed) hands that she used to hand the cashier/tortilla-touching-worker the same money she paid with.
Because she made such I fuss, I pointed it out to her ... she didn't appreciate the irony and pretty much told me to mind my own business.  Apparently the money/wash-your-hands safety issue only applies to one side of the counter, not the other.
Dr of BBQ
Filet Mignon
Re:Food safety: no bare hands 2012/07/10 08:53:24
Great post. Good for you.
Re:Food safety: no bare hands 2012/07/10 14:16:06
I've been making this argument for years, ever since the busybody demo-coordinators in grocery stores have been making us wear gloves during our sauce demonstrations.
Aside from the obvious argument above, what nobody seems to appreciate is the "touch factor".  If my hands become dirty, especially while handling Barbecue Sauce, I can feel it immediately.  I know when to wash my hands simply because I can feel the need.  If I'm wearing gloves, there is less awareness of the grime, and less likelihood it will be dealt with properly.
Regular and reasonable hand washing trumps the false security of gloves every time.  Unless you're a surgeon and I'm lying on your table.  In that case, gloves for sure.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Food safety: no bare hands 2012/07/10 14:20:54
Gloves are, always have been and always will be a facade.
Re:Food safety: no bare hands 2012/07/10 19:05:00
As in the beloved words of the Pointer Sisters (my edited version)
Catch me if you can can-can, if you can can-can ....