Foodservice operations protest food safety 'glove law'

The "glove law" requires foodservice workers to wear and change gloves when adding garnishes.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—State lawmakers have passed a new food safety law that they wish they hadn't.

Anyone working in a California restaurant or bar who prepares ready-to-eat food - from bagels to sushi to fruit salad to cocktails - has to wear gloves or use deli tissue, spatulas or tongs. But the new rule, which went into effect Jan. 1, has had so much blowback that lawmakers are already trying to repeal it.

"It had unintended consequences," said Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a physician and chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Health, which carried the bill in the first place. "There was not a specific incident that led to the new rules. The statute was intended to make minor changes to the California Retail Food Code, because food safety is something we have to take very seriously. So we wanted to make sure that the bill was consistent with other food safety regulations, including minimizing bare-hand contact with food."

Unfortunately, Pan said, the legislation failed to take into account that workers might have a good reason to touch food with their bare hands.

The "glove law" was supposed to be a consensus bill, Pan said. It was agreed upon that if aspects of the bill had opposition at any time in the process, those provisions would be removed from the proposal. But there was no resistance, and AB1252 sailed through both houses of the Legislature with unanimous approval in 2013 and was signed by the governor.