When it comes to food safety, the gloves are off!

I am often asked about the use of gloves in the kitchen when handling and preparing food. This is no small issue, and one that people often get wrong.

There seems to be a misconception that gloves are the sanitary equivalent of hairnets, that is, everyone should be wearing them. Yet there is no negative consequence of hairnets other than becoming a test case for What Not to Wear (well, at least not in public anyway!) Many people assume that the use of gloves creates some super-hygienic force field around kitchen staff hands. Unfortunately, like the Tooth Fairy, it doesn’t matter how much we’d like to believe it – it doesn’t make it true.

So the hard truth is: gloves can cause cross-contamination just as easily as bare hands. Salmonella from raw chicken can be spread to a salad whether the material transferring it is latex or skin.

So why wear ever wear gloves? Let’s get the low-down.

PROS
• Gloves prevent the spread of disease if the wearers have cuts or a rash on their hands.
• People are more aware of their hands when wearing gloves and may therefore be less likely to touch their ears, nose, mouth or hair.

CONS
• Gloves often give people wearing them a false sense of hygiene. They believe that because their hands are covered, they do not need to wash them and also do not replace the gloves often enough.
• The synthetic materials of gloves make one’s hands sweat more, creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria on the skin. This sweat can also seep out onto the food. (Appealing, right?)
• Gloves make one’s sense of touch less acute, which can be dangerous for staff working with sharp knives.
• Gloves are expensive.

Bearing this all in mind, at a time when most companies are trying to reduce costs, the operational expense for gloves just cannot be justified when washing hands correctly is still recommended by all authorities. Actually, it’s much the preferred option, because there is no substitute for correct hand-washing.

And so the key to food safety in the kitchen is not an endless supply of latex, but for food handlers to understand how cross-contamination actually happens. This makes food safety training a vital ingredient of preventing cross-contamination in your kitchen.

But should you decide, despite this knowledge, to use gloves, please ensure all staff members wash their hands and discard gloves frequently.

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