Foodservice Equipment Reports

California Ops Turn Thumbs Down On New Bare Hands Ban

The gloves are off, or they will be if a California legislator has his way. The state’s new law prohibiting bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods is under siege, thanks to a Sacramento assemblyman’s proposed repeal, which changes the state’s health code from “minimizing” to “prohibiting” bare-hand contact with food.

 “It’s not about whether there are gloves or not, it should be about whether the local business and the health inspector have worked together to create a safe environment for the customer,” said Assemblyman Richard Pan.

AB 2130, or the Retail Food Safety Law, likely will move through the legislative process this spring. It’s already garnered strong bipartisan support within the Legislature, as well as from business owners and the California Restaurant Association. Operators have been frustrated by the new rules, which would force food professionals, including sushi chefs and bartenders, to use gloves in the kitchen. The ban on bare-hand contact took effect Jan. 1, but is in a “soft” six-month rollout to give operators time to train their workforces.

“The current glove law created unintended consequences and calls for new gloves for each and every transaction,” Aaron Gregory Smith, national executive director of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, told the San Francisco Business Times. Smith, the general manager at San Francisco's 15 Romolo, added, “For my establishment alone, that is 175 pairs of gloves per shift, and it can add up pretty quickly.”

Currently, only eight states do not prohibit bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods in their food codes: Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. The provision was adopted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1993.