Chefs In California Are Now Required To Wear Gloves – And They Aren’t Happy About It
California lawmakers rolled out a new health regulation that went into effect Jan. 1 that requires chefs to wear disposable gloves or use utensils to assemble ready-to-eat food. While lawmakers largely agree that the law is promoting food safety, many chefs disagree.
Whether or not you’re taking online culinary classes in California, you may have to deal with vinyl gloves as many states already use the same requirements.
What the law bans
Under the legislation signed into the California Retail Food Code by Gov. Jerry Brown, chefs have to wear single-use gloves or use utensils such as tongs to make ready-to-eat dishes. Food in this category includes bread, sushi, salad, vegetables, fruit and any cooked ingredient that must be plated. Cooks are required to remove gloves to take out the trash, after they’ve sneezed or after they have touched any part of their body. They must then wash their hands and replace the gloves.
Specific guidelines about the new law were published in December 2013, and restaurants have been given a six-month grace period during which to implement the necessary changes. Restaurants can apply for exemption, though they have to go through a training program and meet even stricter requirements to avoid the glove law. Since this information was made public, the California health department hasn’t released specifics.
Opponents of the new law claim that it creates waste and restricts chefs. A restaurant can go through several boxes of gloves a day if employees forget they’re wearing the vinyl and scratch an itch.
“The band-aid of a blanket glove regulation is potentially dangerous,” Neal Fraser, chef-owner of BLD restaurant and Fritzi Dog, told the Los Angeles Times. “People get into the tendency to not wash their hands. And environmentally it’s very unfriendly. It’s funny that at the same time L.A. institutes a plastic bag ban, there’s this.”
Chef Niki Nakayama of sushi restaurant N/naka can’t decide whether or not the gloves are any cleaner than bare hands. However, the cleanliness of gloves isn’t her biggest concern. As a sushi chef, she needs precision to create her dishes.
“Making sushi is incredibly hard to do with gloves on. No. 1, the rice is so sticky, the rice would stick to the gloves undoubtedly,” she told the source. “Plus you lose that sense of feel, which is everything in sushi making. You have to know exactly the right pressure to put on ingredients. Wearing a glove would hurt the product.”
Legislators and law supporters feel that the ruling on bare hands should come as no surprise. California isn’t the first state to have a rule of this kind.