wearing gloves while preparing restaurant food

Food Workers - When Must You Change Gloves?

According to a report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are around 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually in the United States, resulting in about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Many of these tragedies could have been prevented, if those handling the food had done with proper preparation and safety standards in mind.

What Gloves do Food Handlers Use?

Food handlers are all around us, from restaurant chefs cooking our meals to workers processing and packaging food to be transported to our supermarkets. A food handler is anyone who at any point maintains direct contact with food in any of its pathways across the supply chain.

Food handlers are at a high risk for injury, cuts, or transmission of bacteria, which is why personal protective equipment (PPE) is a standard amongst that workforce. One of the most common PPE is gloves, whether they are oven mitts or disposable gloves.

Generally, the materials present in disposable gloves utilized in the food preparation industry are made of either neoprene, latex, Vinyl, or nitrile.

What Are Food Grade Gloves?

Food grade disposable gloves are gloves that are FDA-approved for use with food, food packaging, by food service workers and food handlers. They could also be worn by assembly line workers in food processing plants. The FDA approves these gloves based on whether they are considered safe for use with food.

Food grade gloves are also often worn over cut-resistant gloves, providing a double layer to keep gloves clean.

The Risks Associated with Not Changing Gloves

There are many dangers associated with not changing your disposable gloves while working with food, particularly when it comes to cross-contamination and hygiene. This is especially the case if the food handlers are, for example, handling raw meat at one stage but then going back and handling raw vegetables. With raw meat, the worker’s gloves must never leave any traces before handling any other food items. Even if the gloves were washed with soap, research shows that even taking this precaution might not get rid of the bacteria on the gloves and could still cause dangerous contamination.

How to Wear Gloves For Food Handling

There are a few steps to keep in mind when you are handling food in your food grade gloves. Firstly, wearing gloves isn’t done instead of washing hands; you still need to thoroughly wash, disinfect and completely dry your hands before putting on your gloves and in between glove changes. This is especially the case if you notice a rip or puncture in your gloves before you take them off. Make sure to remove and re-wear your gloves away from the surface or area on which the food you are handling is placed.

When Must You Change Single Use Gloves?

The rule of thumb is for food handlers to switch to new gloves every two hours when dealing with food, to take precautions against punctures, growth of bacteria or other pathogenic organisms, or cross-contamination. The longer the gloves are kept on, their barrier qualities begin to be worn down and unreliable.

Are Reusable Gloves Safe for Food Handling?

Given the information above, reusable gloves are not recommended for food handling. It is absolutely necessary to avoid cross-contamination and the risk of the growth of bacteria, and no amount of simply washing your gloves can 100% guarantee that standard of hygiene.

There are steps that have been pointed out that can disinfect your gloves against these issues, but the steps are time-consuming and require a lot of effort, which is a real disadvantage when working in an efficient food handling environment. Experts also warn that even with using this method, disinfecting can never be absolute, and that it is still highly recommended that the gloves are disposed of and the food handler puts on new ones.

The first step would be to prepare a 0.5% sodium hypochlorite solution and immerse the glove hands into them for about 10 minutes. Then soak them again for 10 minutes, this time after turning them inside out. Then after soaking you wash your own hands then wash the gloves using soap and water as well, rinsing the soap out thoroughly when you’re done. Finally, make sure to test for any punctures or leaks by filling the glove at its opening, to see if any water leaks out or if any bubbles in the glove. If there are, switch the gloves for new ones.

Shop Food Service Gloves with WellBefore

WellBefore offers a wide variety of food-grade food preparation gloves. You can purchase these gloves in packages that offer 100 and others that offer up to 2000, depending on your storage and usage needs. They also come in sizes ranging from small to X-large. Most of our gloves are powder free, durable, comfortable, and ambidextrous! Shop at WellBefore for all your food grade glove needs!