Gloves VS. Bare Hands

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 .75 Billion 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 gloves: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?
Email me when people comment –

You need to be a member of FohBoh to add comments!

Join FohBoh


  • Gloves break. Gloves are DESIGNED to break. The glove makers design these products to last as little time as possible so they can SELL MORE.

    You can be absolutely certain that the companies that make these gloves hired a TEAM of scientists to make sure the gloves break quickly.

    Food service workers regularly pick up heavy items and hold and use things that require a strong grip with a great deal of shear force as well. The gloves BREAK.

    People breath and far more nasty things come out of your mouth in the form of water vapor droplets, etc ... than what comes off of your hands.

    The glove thing is all about MONEY for the gloves makers.

    Now, if you are talking hospital that is a totally different animal, literally, different "animal".

    I've known great, five-star chefs who say if the chef isn't touching the food, it's not culinary art.
  • Biodegradability is indeed the issue, Jeffrey.

    Here are two FAQ statements from MAPA:

    Are MAPA gloves and packaging biodegradable?

    Only natural latex is significantly degraded by oxidation when subjected to sunlight (UV). However, the level of biodegradability is less than for organic waste. Gloves made of other materials including natural or synthetic fibers are only slighty biodegradable if at all. Polyethylene and cardboard packaging can be incinerated or recycled.

    Can gloves be incinerated?
    Used gloves and their packaging can generally be destroyed in household waste incinerators or similar equipment. However, PVC (or vinyl) gloves may pose a problem where large volume incineration is required. In fact, incineration of such gloves leads to high levels of hydrogen chloride being released, with potential damage to the incineration installations. It's worth noting that gloves which have been contaminated during use by products which are biologically or chemically dangerous should be stored and destroyed in compliance with local regulations governing dangerous waste.
  • I'm all for bare hands, with maximum washings. Unfortunately, many Health Departments have to consider the broadest common denominator in industry training (or lack of). Those stats on how many gloves are put in landfill are staggering though. Is there any bio-degradeable glove on the market?
  • I recently did a "mystery shop" at a new bar in Boston. As I sat at the bar and watched the three bartenders make drinks, something unique struck me. "Oh my God, I've been here an hour and not one of them has washed their hands." They made drinks, cleared dirty glasses, cut fuit, loaded the glasswasher, fixed their hair, filled ice without a scoop, unloaded glasses, wiped their lips, and NEVER washed their hands. A hand sink was behind the bar, with hand soap, paper towels and hand santizer also available. I was thankful that I was drinking bottled beer!
  • First make every, and I mean every, employee take a food-safety clinic of some kind that emphasizes this before they hit the floor. Make it that important from day one. Serv-safe has an online course, and may have a video that could be shown on site. Seeing the nasty little germs we are talking about can have lasting impact. I know this will go over like a lead balloon, but checking to see if local Health Departments have regular free clinics, would not be out of the question in my mind. New hires could be required to attend.

    Yeah, a bell or buzzer or ringtone. Not a bad idea. However it's done, it takes two weeks of constant practice to create or break a habit. This is one good habit that we can't afford not to have.
  • Maybe a different tone or chime could be programed to go off for each employee? Ringtones...they're so hot right now!
  • When I was with Denny's, they had a time clock that went of every half hour -
    It had to be reset, and the managers had to follow up
    Imagine a line at the handwash sinks - really happened

    After time, you do ignore the buzzer, however, the handwashing had become automatic

    Like the free shot idea, though

  • This may sound a bit Pavlovian, but what if there was a bell or chime that went off every 15 minutes reminding BOH staff to wash hands and a pop-up on POS monitors reminding FOH staff to do the same? Would they just start to ignore it over time, or would an incentive need to be added, perhaps a pin code keypad installed on the soap dispenser that monitors who's actually washing their hands. Free shot at the end of the shift to all who comply? Patent pending....
  • Right On !

  • The purpose of gloves is a food-barrier. There are at times other acceptable food barriers-tongs, for instance. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than constant proper hand-washing. The day someone walks on the job they need to have that training, and it needs to be continually reinforced by management. There is no exempt position to that requirement. We have a responsibility to ourselves and public safety. This is serious business.
This reply was deleted.

Food Tech Vendors