August 10, 2010

Plastic Food Prep Gloves: neither Sanitary nor Necessary.

When did we equate plastic with health?

First of all, plastic is forever. It breaks down, but never decomposes, and it’s easily consumed by animals, and fish, which we love to consume. It’s linked to cancer. And there’s an island of it the size of a couple Texases in the middle of the Pacific. Plastic? It’s bad. We should only use it when we have no other choice.

Now, many restaurants and kitchens have no choice: they’re required by law to wear plastic gloves. What got me thinking about these silly, pointless accoutrements of modern government-encouraged OCD? After all, aren’t germs actually good for us—they help build up our natural immune systems? Don’t we all know to wash our hands, particularly during cold season? And aren’t plastic-glove wearing cooks touching lots of unsanitary things with those plastic gloves—which have germ-breeding wrinkles in ’em, anyways?

Finally, isn’t it odd that we’re worried about germs, but not about eating “conventional,” untested genetically-modified food sprayed with pesticides (fancy word for poison)? It seems, on the one hand, that we’re uptight about germs…and on the other hand, cavalier about disease and cancer.

What got me thinking about this hypocritical, pointless plastic glove virus, that’s spreading nationally? Jamie Oliver, whose offhand comment during one of his top-rated Food Revolution shows: “they’re dirtier than your hands” rang my brain like a bell.

Excerpt from one of hundreds of articles criticizing plastic gloves:

…[Since a] plastic glove has tiny wrinkles, it acts as storage area for contamination and pathogens.

Many states have passed laws that require food handlers to wear gloves, and requiring food handlers to wear gloves offers a false sense of security to consumers because the sight of gloves makes the food preparation process look clean and sanitary when it actually isn’t. Many people don’t notice that the person making their food is also touching contaminated objects and surfaces while wearing the same pair of gloves.

Where does this leave us regarding sanitation of our restaurant food? A report by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority suggests that proper hand washing is much more hygienic than wearing gloves. The report states that wearing plastic gloves tempts food handlers to wash their hands less frequently because they can’t feel when something gets on their hands. The report also advocates that laws and restaurants not require food handlers to wear gloves, and that most food can be touched with bare hands provided the food handler has thoroughly washed and dried his or her hands immediately prior to handling the food.

Perhaps the answer lies in the use of other “barrier” methods such as forks, spoons, scoops, and tongs. Each time a food handler that is wearing gloves touches a surface besides food, those gloves are contaminated whereas other barriers such as utensils don’t touch other contaminated surfaces as often…read the rest here.

What do you all think? I know some gloves are latex, but like latex condoms, doubt that they’re actually disposable or compostable.

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