Wearing of Gloves in Food Areas

The use of gloves in food areas has become a frequent occurrence in kitchens. In this article we address some common misunderstandings about the use of gloves in the kitchen. The Regulation R638 states: “A food handler must not touch ready to consume non-prepacked foods with his/her bare hands, unless it is unavoidable for preparation purposes, in which case food must be handled in accordance with good manufacturing practices.”

The confusion seems to lie in the first sentence, without considering the second portion of the requirement.

What are the concerns with the use of gloves in food areas?

  • Gloves increase the perspiration of the wearer and this is not ideal since it will make their hands warm and clammy—ideal breeding grounds for the bacteria always found on skin. It is obvious that through normal movements this sweat can drip out of the gloves onto the exterior.
  • Gloves that have come into contact with contaminated surfaces and foods will pick up bacteria just like hands.
  • There seems to be an idea that wearing gloves renders your hands “magically” impervious to contamination.  We often see staff wearing gloves pick up refuse bin lids, food off the floor and so on.  This is especially true of the latex surgical gloves, which are supposed to be “semi-durable” and may be worn the whole day.  Staff may also believe they don’t need to wash hands before donning gloves, which is not true.
  • Staff may not be able to work properly in gloves since their sense of touch is compromised. This can even be dangerous, for example, with knife-work.
  • Even when the gloves are soiled the hands won’t feel dirty and therefore hand washing may be neglected.
  • The requisite frequent changing of gloves adds to the operational expense.

What are the other benefits for the use of gloves in the kitchen?

  1. Creates an extra layer over bare hands from pathogenic organisms.
  2. Adds addition protection when a food handler cuts their fingers.
  3. Protects sensitive hands.
  4. Improves hand grip in some instances.

For us at FCS, the risks are clear and outway the public perception on the idea of gloves being more hygienic. Regular and correct hand washing and/or sanitising of the hands as recommended for good hygiene by all Authorities is clearly more effective in preventing cross-contamination.

The only possible exception, that the law suggests is for use in serveries, Deli’s and the like where a case may be made for the very thin, completely disposable clear plastic gloves, which are religiously discarded after each use. To some extent this is to placate customers who are ignorant of the points above and who equate glove-wearing with hygiene.

In addition, the law also suggests that gloves are not necessary during the food preparation process, and only necessary if foods are being directly handled in a circumstance where utensils are impossible to be used. We support the idea that gloves should be completely eliminated from the kitchen itself and should only be used in the rare circumstance in a servery environment, where a spoon or tongs cannot be used to handle foods. And if such a circumstance arrives, that only the clear, disposable gloves be used for this purpose.   

Should you choose to continue with the use of gloves; we would highly recommend that a glove usage policy be written and adhered to. Below is an example of such a policy:

A guideline to proper glove usage in the kitchen:

  • Hands must be washed and dried thoroughly:
    • Before wearing gloves
    • When changing to a new pair of gloves
    • After removing the gloves
  • A new pair of gloves must be worn:
    • When changing tasks (e.g. when moving to a new work station, after handling raw meats, before handling ready-to-eat foods such as sandwiches, after cleaning duties, etc.).
    • After covering mouth during sneezing or coughing, blowing nose, or touching hair (again, hands must be washed after gloves have been removed).
    • As frequently as possible.
  • A pair of gloves should not be worn for more than 4 hours. Prolonged use of a single pair of gloves can result in excess perspiration on hands, which provides ideal conditions for bacterial growth on the skin.
  • Gloves are also more likely to leak or tear if worn for extended periods.
  • Disposable gloves should only be used once.
  • Durable reusable gloves must be washed and sanitised between tasks and stored carefully after removal to prevent contamination.
  • Gloves should always be worn by employees:
    • Who have cuts, sores or rashes on hands
    • Who wear orthopaedic support devices on the hands that cannot be adequately cleaned, such as casts and braces
    • Who wear artificial nails or fingernail polish (although in terms of personal hygiene, this should never be the case)
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Hygiene Survey Manager