Foodservice Equipment Reports

California Shows Its Hand On New Food-Handling Law

California is taking it slow on the state’s new law banning bare-hand contact with prepared food.

At the urging of the California Restaurant Association, the two agencies in charge of enforcing the new law (the California Department of Public Health and the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health) agreed to implement a six-month “soft” roll-out rather than strictly enforcing the new law Jan. 1. The new requirement, one of several changes to the California Retail Food Code, makes the use of gloves, deli tissues or utensils mandatory whenever ready-to-eat foods—raw or precooked foods that will not be heated to 165˚F—are handled by foodservice workers.

The new section also applies to fruit and vegetable garnishes, such as parsley on plates, lemon wedges in water or celery stalks in cocktails.

With the new regulations reaching across all foodservice segments and business sizes, the CCDEH and CDPH recognized that many operations might remain unaware of the new bare-hand contact rules or unable to implement new procedures in time to be compliant by Jan. 1.

Under the gradual roll-out, foodservice operators should not be cited for a violation of this section during the first six months of 2014. Instead, if prohibited bare-hand contact is observed during the first six months, the incident will be noted on the inspection report as a warning and the operator will be educated as to the specifics of the new rule as well as the reasons behind the new rule. Full guidance documents will be developed and distributed before July 1.

Foodservice operations that do not cater to what the law defines as “highly susceptible populations,” such as nursing homes, senior centers and preschools, can get exemptions by submitting detailed information on foods touched by bare hands and written documentation of a health plan, safety prevention, employee training and other practices.

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