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Goodbye to gloves for food handlers in California

Do we trust California legislators, influenced by the restaurant and bar industries, to be capable of deciding what is best for ensuring food safety?
Do we trust California legislators, influenced by the restaurant and bar industries, to be capable of deciding what is best for ensuring food safety?
Ronbo76/Wikimedia Commons

It was a good measure, to some of us who care about disease prevention: the implementation of mandatory glove wearing by food handlers in California restaurants and bars was a measure to nip disease transmission in the bud. Now, sadly, it has been dealt a death blow by the state legislature, which caved to pressure yesterday from numerous restaurant owners. (See the article by KFI-AM: Bill AB2130, introduced by State Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), was passed by a whopping 32 to 0 on Thursday, June 26. Now, those handling food at any stage of its preparation can legally start once again to pass on their germs to unsuspecting consumers. Doesn’t that make you just want to go home and never eat out again?

Check out the following two links below; the first refers to the new legislation repealing the previous (new) act:;jsessionid=f3989b934a6ad52534897cd330e1.

The next--which is pure insanity--is taken from the first line of the repealed legislation, regarding hand washing by food handlers, and in the act is stricken through in red, thus rendering it revoked:

113961. (a) Food employees shall wash their hands in accordance with the provisions established in Section 113953.3.

Supposedly, there is a “false sense of security” propagated by the use of gloves or utensils to handle what we will put in our mouths. Since just about everywhere there are laws ordering food handlers to scrub up before work, as well as following bathroom use, this should suffice, according to restaurant owners. What about what happens between the start of an employee’s shift and the next hand-washing occasion? For those who have ever worked in a commercial kitchen, it is well known that there are numerous incidents where staff sneeze (often into their hands), cough, touch their faces (or God forbid, other body areas), and do not go and wash their hands immediately—if at all. Short of a camera on each employee at all times, how will such breaches of sanitation even be detected?

For those wondering “what has this got to do with alternative medicine?” please be aware that prevention of disease is an integral part of this means of health care. Avoiding the spread of germs is simple in most cases if care and common sense are used. In the nineteenth century many physicians scoffed at the idea of surgeons washing their hands before working on a patient. Doctors who failed to observe such rudimentary cleanliness before delivering babies were responsible for many infant and maternal deaths. Today, of course, the notion of ignoring basic hygiene rules such as hand washing is enough to make most reasonable people scream in terror.

Yet apparently in the food business, the mission of disease prevention is being legally thwarted now. Most people are aware that food preparation surfaces, storage containers, and utensils must all be kept scrupulously clean. The concept of the ability to transmit bacteria, viruses, fungi, of all sorts via touch even for a moment, though, is not regarded as a serious threat. How many epidemics will be started by those who have wiped a nose quickly, without even noticing it, then made a sandwich? How often will chips of fingernail polish end up in salads? Will people start finding more bandages in soup, or scabs from fingers cut during food chopping? The possibilities go on longer than many menus.

To those who wish to continue eating out: try to find establishments that already have their own “touch free” policies, and who prepare your meal up-front where you can see what is going on. If restaurants don’t want to spend money on cheap disposable gloves (that ought to be replaced more than once per shift, to avoid cross-contamination, by the way), take your cash to a place that cares more about its customers. Your health is worth the effort to prevent contracting horrific infections by such germs as E.coli, shigella, salmonella, listeria and others. If the restaurant owners begin to notice a lack of customers, perhaps they will return to safer practices, legally ordained or not.

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