The start of 2014 brought in a new, much maligned and griped about requirement for all chefs and bartenders in California. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, a new section (113961) of the California Retail Food Code prohibited bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. Fruit, bread, sushi, cocktail garnishes and any other food that will not be cooked or re-heated before it hits the bar or table are all considered ready-to-eat and required the use of gloves or utensils when handling.
Proponents of the ordinance claimed that the rules were necessary to prevent food borne illnesses. Chefs and bartenders pointed out that cross-contamination was just as likely to occur with gloves, that dirty gloves were more dangerous than clean hands. Bartenders pondered the loss of dexterity, the impossibilities of properly garnishing drinks and worried about more breakage with slippery gloves. And wearing gloves not only goes against the tradition and training of Sushi making, it also makes it harder to slice the fish and form those perfect mounds of rice, because the grains stick to gloves, but not bare hands. Others pointed out that the law was cost prohibitive for small businesses, wasteful and counterproductive to environmental strides such as plastic bag bans.
Lawmakers claimed that they were unaware of any drawbacks to the law and that if there had been more protests and arguments against the proposal before they might not have voted for it; restaurateurs and bar owners said that they weren't aware of anything to protest until the law was enacted. But on Saturday, Governor Jerry Brown signed a repeal, and the state's food-handling law reverted to its previous incarnation, which advises "minimal hand contact" with ready-to-eat foods.