I was in the Caribbean as a food and beverage operations consultant and was surprised that most resorts and food service operations didn't use disposable gloves
. When I asked about that, the logic of the reply silenced me.
"This is an island. We have very limited landfill capacity."
There are a lot if issues in play here, centered around what type of glove to use.
Latex gloves are not advised
because they can lead to anaphyaxis in consumers allergic to latex through the adherence of latex proteins to food and tableware.
Powdered gloves are also problematic:
"When powdered gloves are removed from their dispenser and pulled on or off a user’s hands, there is a minute puff of powder particles dispersed into the air. The most commonly employed glove powder is cornstarch. Only about 1/8 of a teaspoon of cornstarch is used per pair of gloves but this is enough to make potentially harmful latex proteins airborne, particles that were not completely removed from the gloves’ surface during the manufacturing process. Inhaled, this can be an irritant that develops over time into serious respiratory allergies for both patients and those who wear powdered latex gloves.
There is also evidence that the cornstarch dust picks up bacteria in its flight, subsequently spreading infection. Studies indicate that cornstarch impedes wound healing since it is a foreign body, contributing to infection, scarring and adhesion."
Other issues include proper fit, changing after touching hair, face, etc. and cross contamination during use.
There are many who favor the bare hand and constant washing discipline
, citing heightened tactility and sensitivity. This calls for a rigorous oversight with hand washing protocol.
Lori Weisberg discusses bare hands
in her article, Get a feel for your food.
Another bare hands proponent, The Arkansas Food Protective Service
does not require gloves stating:
"Glove usage has not been proven to lower the incidence of food borne illnesses. Gloves become just as dirty as the bare hand but are not as likely to be replaced as often as the hands are washed. Gloves seem to give the food service worker a sense of protection that is not there. The Division of Environmental Health Protection , Food Protection Services Section is not against thee use of gloves in food service, but does require that hands still be washed and new gloves be used after each activity performed by the employee.
Finally, I spoke with the EPA, landfill experts, and several people involved in recycling
to find out what is done with used gloves. There is no recycling effort
that I was able to find and as near as I can figure the amount of gloves thrown away each year in the U.S. is somewhere around the
mark. This figure does not include gloves used in the health care field, or labs, homes, and manufacturing.
All of this material is going into incinerators or landfills.
I could find only 1 company active in reprocessing
According to Glovea
, a French company that has come up with a reprocessing procedure for disposable gloves, the amount used is significant.
Every year in France, more than 4 thousand million single-use hygiene gloves are thrown away.
I asked numerous people if they thought food service employees should use gloves and the answer was unanimously YES. They felt better protected against food borne illness and all mentioned a concern about the personal hygiene of the employees.
But, do gloves change the habits of the hygienically challenged employee or do they retain the same habits while gloved, leading us to a false sense of security?
If they do retain those habits the answer would be to increase supervision and training. Of course the same applies to bare hands and that leads to less waste and expense.
How about a show of hands? What do you think?