Should food handlers wear gloves?

As the emergence of websites like Iwaspoisoned.com and the various public recalls of common food products have shown, food safety is hardly a threat of the past. In order to address this persistent problem, legislatures around the country and food safety experts around the world have focused their efforts on limiting the contact between food and bare hands. With 40% of all foodborne illness cases originating from poor handwashing, the instinct to regulate hand sanitation is understandable. 

The majority of states in the U.S. now have some kind of law regulating food-handlers and their handwashing practice, with New York and California gong so far as to mandate gloves for food handlers at all times.

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Laws requiring food handlers to wear gloves were designed to encourage a greater awareness of food safety and to prevent opportunities for contamination. By requiring food handlers to change gloves at every handwashing, health inspectors hope to limit the prevalence of unclean surfaces, yes. But most importantly, health inspectors believe they will be able to better track handwashing compliance based on the number of gloves in the trash  

However, 6 months after passing the law requiring food handlers to wear gloves, California repealed the glove requirement in an effort to reduce waste and calm public anger. The brief experiment led to thousands of tons of excess waste and slower operations due to the constant glove changing as well as negatively affecting restaurant owners’ bottom line

The conclusion of the experiment? Gloves frustrate food handlers, produce excess waste and negatively affect food safety operations.

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The center for disease control believes gloves raise the risk of foodborne illness. According to the CDC, workers who wear gloves are less likely to wash their hands as regularly as they should. Food handlers who wear gloves wash less because they assume that the gloves will protect customers.

The problem lies in our handwashing culture as a whole, we all know washing our hands is important and yet we rarely pay it the same attention we might give other everyday tasks like shaving or parking the car. But with 97% of Americans not washing their hands correctly we clearly need a better solution that limits the prevalence of human error. Gloves are not the answer. It is bad for the environment, business operations, kitchen habits, and can negatively affect quality of food (like sushi). 


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PathSpot’s hand scanner detects signs of foodborne illness and is one technological solution tackling handwashing efficacy and compliance. By introducing hand scanners in their stores, restaurant owners can provide their teams with a live handwashing check that validates whether washed hands are free of foodborne illness. PathSpot also collects data on handwashing habits that can empower team members and restaurant owners to work together to close the gaps in their handwashing habits. PathSpot’s hand scanners can help you strengthen your team’s culture around handwashing.

Click here to learn more about how PathSpot can help you meet your handwashing goals.

Dutch Waanders