Have you ever walked into a restaurant only to see the people behind the counter handling your food weren't wearing gloves? It usually makes you pretty suspicious about the quality and safety of the food, right?
It's a reasonable suspicion to have. The CDC estimates that around 48 million people in the U.S. get food poisoning every year. A large portion of those illnesses come a lack of care on the part of the food handler. When the numbers are that high, you should be taking every precaution.
If you own a restaurant, and you see your employees handling food without gloves it's especially frustrating. Not only is it unsanitary, but it also creates negative advertising. If a customer sees an employee cutting up chicken or mixing salad greens, they are going to walk right out the door.
That's why it's so important to use food handling gloves. Below, we'll explain how to utilize them properly to maximize food safety.
How to Use Food Handling Gloves
You'd think slapping on some latex gloves would be simple enough, but the Department of Health in each state has various guidelines on best practices to employ when using food handling gloves. Each state has their own idiosyncrasies, but we'll provide some general tips below.
Wash Your Hands First
Gloves are useless if you've just been fishing through cow manure. The point of food handling gloves is to create a bacteria-proof barrier between your hands and the food. The gloves become less effective if the hands wearing them are filthy. This could lead to bacteria on your hands crawling out of your gloves and onto the food.
Wash your hands first, and remember to get under your nails!
Use Snug-Fitting Gloves
This issue can lead to indirect food safety issues. Wearing gloves that are too big or too small can make it harder to do your job. The glove could slip off in the food, leading to contamination, for example. Or you could be slicing meat with gloves that are too large, have the knife slip from your hands and slice open one of your fingers. Then, you're bleeding all over the meat, wasting money and making customers sick. It's no good.
Change Gloves When You Change Stations
Aside from keeping food away from germs on your own hands, food handling gloves also serve to keep bacteria on other foods away from the rest of the kitchen. So when you move from one workstation to the next, make sure to swap out gloves.
For example, if you're working in front of the range, and you're rubbing down raw meat with a spice rub, you need to change your gloves before you start tossing salads. Otherwise, you'll just get all the bacteria, like e. Coli and other germs, on the lettuce. And who wants e. Coli in their lettuce!
Do Not Reuse Gloves
If you take off your gloves to go to the bathroom or go on lunch break, the chances of contamination are high if you reuse them. This is because there is almost nowhere you could place them that wouldn't expose them to unwanted bacteria.
Even if you're returning to the same station, you should change them. Just put a new pair on, they'll feel nicer anyway.
Latex used to be the go-to when it came to food handling gloves. But these days, a lot of people are developing allergies to latex. Your best bet then is to buy gloves made with synthetic material or vinyl.
An added benefit of this is that latex tends to melt and shrink around a heat source. If you're working by an open fire all day, latex has the potential to give you some pretty bad burns if you're not careful. The last thing you want is a coating of hot melted plastic around your hands.
Wash Your Hands When You're Done
Spend a day sweating into a pair of rubber gloves and you've some pretty moist conditions on your hands. This moisture creates an environment in which bacteria can grow and prosper, which is the last thing we want.
So when you're done with your shift, bookend your day by giving your hands another wash.
Cover Cuts & Wounds Twice Over
If you're coming to work with a gnarly paper-cut or you had a tip lopped off throwing axes, you have to take extra precautions.
In cases like these, make sure that before you put your gloves on, you've got your wound properly cleaned, dressed, and wrapped in a bandage. Blood-borne illnesses can be brutal, so we have to be doubly safe here.
Gloves are not the end-all-be-all of food safety. They're not some magical safeguard against germs. They're but one tool in your food safety arsenal.
You also have to make sure that the food you're serving is being stored and cooked properly. A general rule for the Department of Health in many states is that when food is refrigerated it has to stay below 41 degrees and when it is cooked it has to be cooked to a temperature above 140 degrees. The temperatures between these two extremes promote the growth of bacteria.
Of course, there are foods like steaks that get cooked below this temperature, or not at all in the case of sushi. That is why many restaurants are required to have warnings on their menus if they serve raw meat or fish.
Thumbs-Up For Food Safety
With this information in tow, you're reading to take on that kitchen and keep your food in pristine condition. If you're an employer and need to stock up on quality gloves, check out our supply of food handling gloves.
We can take care of all of your glove-based needs at affordable prices!