California Lifts Glove Law for Food Handlers

2 min read

Food handlers of California -- from bartenders to sushi chefs -- will once again be serving food and drinks the old fashioned way: barehanded.

California lawmakers have done a 180 on a controversial law that required food workers to wear disposable gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods. On Thursday, the state Senate voted unanimously to repeal the law, a decision that was finalized on Saturday by Governor Jerry Brown.

The law, which was passed last year, was originally intended to promote health and prevent food-borne illnesses. However, restaurants and bars immediately voiced outrage against the health-code change. While chain restaurants reportedly adjusted to the ban easily, independent chefs and bartenders found the restriction unnecessary and cumbersome. 

Related: Restaurants Seek Alternatives as FDA's Salt Crackdown Looms

Sushi chefs and bartenders reacted particularly strongly against the bill, arguing that proper hand washing was just as effective as and more cost-efficient than disposable gloves. Further, being forced to wear gloves would hold back skilled and experienced individuals from crafting the best sushi roll or cocktail possible.

"While I'm sure the state legislature had our best interests in mind when they created this law, I am equally sure they were not attempting to protect us from bartenders smacking a sprig of mint with their bare hands or expressing the oil of an orange twist above a cocktail," states an online petition to exempt bartenders from the disposable glove law. The petition, started by bartender Josh Miller, gained 11,631 signatures and ultimately played a role in the introduction of the bill to repeal the glove requirement.

A recent study by the CDC found that over half of norovirus outbreaks, the most common form of food poisoning, are due to employees touching ready-to-eat food with their bare hands. However, gloves aren't necessarily the solution. Another CDC study found that employees are less likely to follow appropriate hand-washing practices when gloves were worn. In the end, it's not regulation that the food industry needs -- it's for employees to simply take the time to wash their hands. 

Related: The No. 1 Thing Restaurants Must Do to Stop Food Poisoning

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