Taking the Gloves Off
A Guide to the Safe Use of Disposable Gloves
Putting gloves on before you prepare or touch ready-to-eat (RTE) food is, of course, vital to food safety at every restaurant.But knowing when to take them off is equally critical.
We asked Michael Counihan, Director of Sales and Corporate Accounts at FoodHandler Inc., to help us understand the process. Throughout his long tenure at the leading food safety company, he’s been passionately committed to communicating the importance of hand hygiene in preventing foodborne illness.
“The impact of even a single incident of foodborne illness at an independent restaurant can’t be underestimated,” he emphasizes. “While large national chains will likely survive, a small, independent operation will likely go out of business. Implementing a core food safety program is key to preventing illness.”
Multiple factors can contribute to foodborne illness — improper cooling or heating of food, use of the same knives to cut raw poultry and vegetables — but improper hand hygiene is one of the main culprits. It’s why, amidst FoodHandler’s full selection of safety-focused apparel, prep and storage bags, the expansive line of disposable gloves is what Counihan considers the first line of protection at foodservice operations. That, and regular, thorough handwashing, for a full 20 seconds before and after donning gloves.
However, the use of single-use disposable gloves can add to the risk if not used correctly, remaining on the hands of food workers longer than intended and increasing the danger of cross contamination.
“It happens frequently at restaurants,” acknowledges Counihan. “There tends to be a lot of employee turnover, and employees may not be properly trained.” He offers these tips to operators to help them stay safe and keep the doors open:
- Wash hands properly. The CDC recommends scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds.
- Select the right-sized glove for your hand and match glove to task (see below).
- Disposable gloves are task-specific and should never be worn continuously.
- Food contact gloves should not be used for nonfood tasks such as handling money, garbage removal, cleaning surfaces, etc.
- The 2013 FDA Food Code mandates no bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods; therefore, use gloves with salad bar items, fruits, sandwiches, cooked foods, deli meats, cheeses, breads or ice.
- Use non-latex gloves to reduce the incidence of allergic reactions.
- Choose vinyl, synthetic or latex gloves for handling food near a heat source cooking area, rather than poly gloves, which are not resistant to heat.
- Change your gloves whenever you are beginning a new task and after handling raw meat, fish or poultry.
- If you are working continuously with a ready-to-eat food, change your gloves at least every four hours.
- Change ripped or torn gloves immediately.
- Do not reuse gloves.
- Consider the use of FoodHandler’s oneSAFE® dispensing system that enables users to pull out a single glove by the cuff and don it without touching the food-handling surface, significantly reducing the risk of cross contamination.*
Most important: Always wash hands before and after using disposable gloves. “Glove use in itself does not guarantee food safety,” emphasizes Counihan. “All the components in the process are necessary, from proper handwashing to use of hand sanitizers … the final step is to put on a disposable glove.”
A Serious Danger
1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) become sick from foodborne diseases
128,000 people are hospitalized each year from foodborne disease
3,000 people die annually from foodborne diseases
Fits Like a Glove
Pick the right glove for the job:
Low-cost, loose-fitting gloves for light tasks that require changing gloves often. Tasks: making sandwiches, garnishing plates, preparing pizzas or tacos, wrapping silverware, filling ice buckets, food sampling, using and cleaning the soft serve ice milk machine. Use elbow length gloves for mixing and reaching into large containers of food.
More durable, closer-fitting gloves for food processing and medium-duty food tasks requiring good dexterity and/or sensitivity. Tasks: Handling sliced cheese, grill line plating area, breakfast grill, cracking eggs, fresh squeezed juice prep, prep of cream-filled pies, pizzas, salads, tacos, handling ready-to-eat meats such as ham and tuna, seafood prep, raw meat cutting, trimming produce, handling bone-in hams or smoked chops, meat grinder area, vacuum packaging area.
Formfitting gloves for tasks requiring ultimate dexterity and fingertip sensitivity. Tasks: Handling, slicing, prep, mixture of ready-to-eat foods, cheese slicing area, grill line plating area, breakfast grill, cracking eggs, cake decorating, dough handling, plate garnishing, preparing appetizer or veggie platters, vacuum packaging area. If sensitive to latex, use synthetic gloves, which feel and act like latex.
Synthetic gloves for specific tasks requiring good puncture resistance and a high level of dexterity. Tasks: Intricate garnishing, handling delicate foods, sushi preparation, deboning and preparing meats, handling hot peppers or shellfish.
*As shown in the Swann-Morton Study Executive Summary available at www.oneSAFEsystem.com
*As displayed at cdc.gov
*Page 323 of the 2013 FDA Food Code