Glove up or not?

When it comes to gloves and food safety, chefs have a wide variety of opinions.

If you gathered a group of chefs together for a spirited conversation, what do you think would be the topic that would generate the liveliest discussion? The hottest food trends? GMOs in foodstuffs? Pros and cons of salt?

If my recent communications with chefs are any indication, I believe the most contentious topic might be glove usage. After California last year became the latest state to pass a glove usage law, I began to informally survey chefs about their thoughts on glove usage when I visited operations or when I talked with them as I researched various other articles. The comments I’ve received have run the gamut from complete support to total outrage.

Most chefs I’ve spoken with agree on one thing. Many kitchen workers do not use gloves properly. Their sins range from not changing them often enough to changing them too frequently to using them for tasks in which they are unintended.

“One of the mistakes, no doubt about it, is thinking that wearing gloves makes you infallible,” says Steven Plescha, executive chef at Pennswood Village, a retirement community in eastern Pennsylvania.

“The biggest mistake I see is cooks walking around outside the kitchen area wearing their gloves,” adds Darla Mehrkens, catering chef at Carilion Clinic, in Roanoke, Va. “Some cooks take it for granted that just because you are wearing gloves you can touch anything you want and not transfer contaminants to other surfaces or foods.”

Carrie Anderson, executive chef for residential dining services at the University of Illinois, in Normal, agrees. “The biggest mistake I see is staff wearing gloves when they are not handling food,” she says. “For example, a staff member walks away from a prep area to grab a part of his mise en place or to ask a question or even to throw something away and doesn’t remove his gloves.”

But of all the chefs I’ve heard from, one is unabashedly opposed to the use of gloves. If Nicola Torres had his way, gloves wouldn’t be mandated in foodservice establishments; they’d be banned.

“They are useless in regard to serving food more safely,” Torres says. “Most of the time they are being misused by staff, which leads to a false sense of security or safety. That is actually worse.”

His other objections to gloves? “They could be a financial burden, especially for a small business, without the guarantee of better safety. They impair cooks in regard to our sense of touch. If you are not careful while cutting, a piece of glove can be cut and mixed in with the food and go unnoticed.”

Torres doesn’t deny that gloves can be useful. He sees the value of wearing gloves if a cook has an open wound, or if a chef is working with certain foods like fish or onions, the smell of which “can stay with you for some time.”

The bottom line, according to Torres, is that food safety comes down to education and reinforcement. “I’m all for ending the use of gloves and training and disciplining staff on washing hands as much as possible,” he suggests. “After all, by law you must wash your hands before and in between glove usage.”

Readers, what are your thoughts? Is Nicola Torres on the right track? Give me your feedback at pking@cspnet.com.

Keywords: 
food safety

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The menu served at Ottawa General Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, is headed for an overhaul after its CEO and management team ate a strict hospital food diet for a week and were unhappy with their options. The foodservice department has been fielding patient complaints for years, but decided to take action after facing the issue head on.

“Getting food managers to eat three meals of hospital food a day for a week brought the point home that much of the food being served was bland, institutional and not what people would normally eat,” Director of Food Services Kevin Peters told Ottawa...

Industry News & Opinion

With overtime pay likely to become a reality for some salaried foodservice employees after Dec. 1, operators are rethinking what they expect managers to do off-site as part of their responsibilities. Answering email or scheduling shifts at home didn’t matter when the employees were exempted from overtime if they earned more than $23,660 per year. But with that threshold more than doubling on Dec. 1 to $47,476, a half hour spent here and there on administrative tasks could push a salaried manager over the 40-hours-per-week threshold and entitle him or her to overtime. And how does the...

Menu Development
frozen raspberries

“As a chef, I pretty much have grown up through the business thinking that fresh was always better—produce, fish and meats, especially,” says Ryan Conklin, executive chef for UNC Rex Healthcare’s culinary and nutrition services. “But the more ‘re-educated’ I get, the more I’m learning that some frozen options may be more appropriate for me to be using on my menus.”

Right now, the perception of frozen foods doesn’t match the reality, especially for high-volume foodservice operators, says Conklin. Often, chefs and operators picture not-great product that’s been sitting in a block of...

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

FSD Resources