The new year brought in a new requirement for all chefs and bartenders in California. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, a new section (113961) of the California Retail Food Code prohibits 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 will require the use of gloves or utensils mandatory whenever ready-to-eat foods are handled. Specifically: “…(b) Except when washing fruits and vegetables, as specified in Section 113992 or as specified in subdivisions (e) and (f), food employees shall not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands and shall use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves, or dispensing equipment."
The law is more far reaching than previous regulations in the California kitchen. A bartender putting a lemon twist on a cocktail? Needs gloves or to do it with a tweezer. Particularly up in arms about the gloves are Sushi chefs — wearing gloves not only goes against the tradition and training of Sushi making, it also makes it harder to form those perfect mounds of rice, because the grains stick to gloves, but not bare hands.
Under the new law, gloves must also be changed often — one pair of gloves may only be used for one task, used for no other purpose and must be discarded when damaged or soiled, when interruptions in food handling occur or when changing from one type of food to another. Gloves also must be changed every time hands are washed. This strikes some chefs as wasteful and also more than a little strange that they are being required to comply with this environmentally unfriendly policy at the same time that L.A. is kicking off a ban on plastic bags. They also point out that it's just as easy to cross contaminate with gloves as it is with hands.
Proponents of the ordinance say that the rules are necessary to prevent food borne illnesses.
So what say you Cooking District readers? Are gloves in the kitchen a necessary evil or an unnecessary annoyance? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.