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Do gloves guarantee safe food?

plating food with gloves for food safety

Question:

I recently received a negative comment on an article that included a picture showing me cutting meat with my bare hands. The comment suggested that I'm not a clean cook because I’m not wearing gloves. We are not required to wear gloves and my hands were clean. Do gloves actually make a difference?

– Chef, Philadelphia, PA

Answer:

A pair of single-use foodservice gloves is a tool that can help ensure safe food. Like any tool, it is only effective when properly used. Having dirty hands beneath the gloves, not changing them frequently, cross-contaminating by handling both raw and ready-to-eat foods, handling cash with gloved hands, or not changing them after touching one’s face, clothes, hair or other parts renders them ineffective and not necessarily better than clean bare hands. Conversely, changing gloves frequently and using them properly can be safer than bare hands as the barrier prevents pathogens missed in handwashing such as those found under a wedding ring or fingernails from contaminating food. 

Many municipalities require gloves or another barrier such as wax paper, tongs or a serving spoon when handling ready-to-eat food. In others, while it may be perfectly legal to, say, mix a pasta salad with one’s bare hands, the effect of doing so is off-putting, unsavory, and just not a smart strategy: put some gloves on.

In all, given the context—handling food that will presumably be cooked to a safe temperature and clean hands, you are in the right and the comment is unfortunate and hopefully will not sway readers away from dining with you. But there is a good lesson here regardless: in this media age, you never know when your next photo opportunity will be, so keep your standards high.

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