Food handling Gloves
A Valuable Tool in the Food Prep Toolbox
There are many different types of gloves available for foodhandling tasks. When purchasing and offering gloves, consider that they are grouped by their intended function and their material make up.
When choosing gloves, consider the foodhandling tasks that are performed in the operation. Hand mixing salads? Peeling shrimp? Slicing cheese? Plating food? Dicing hot peppers? Assembling sushi? The composition of the food product (for example, fatty cheeses or meats), the level of dexterity needed (such as decorating pastries), and the amount of product being handled (such as when breading chicken or making sauces) will dictate the type of glove used.
Polyethylene (“poly”) gloves are loose-fitting and designed for tasks where the gloves will be changed often. They’re best used for quick jobs that don’t require a high level of dexterity. They’re not particularly durable and should not be used near heat sources. Examples of tasks where poly gloves are best used include assembling sandwiches, plating or expediting food, and garnishing and dispensing food.
Vinyl gloves fit close to the hand to allow for great dexterity; they also have the best fingertip sensitivity. They’re fairly durable and can be used near heat sources. Some countries have limited the use of vinyl gloves particularly when handling fatty food, so talk with your glove supplier when purchasing. These gloves can be used for a wide-variety of tasks including plating proteins, pizza prep, sushi assembling, peeling shrimp and squeezing juices.
Nitrile gloves are also offered to the industry as an alternative to latex gloves. They also provide excellent dexterity and sensitivity. Some drawbacks of nitrile gloves are that they do not fit as closely to the hand as latex gloves and are not as durable. And a key drawback can be the price as they are often more expensive than other gloves. However one key benefit is they do not break down when in contact with fats. Ideal uses for nitrile gloves include fine manipulations, sushi prep, handling and boning meats. Many gloves are offered in a variety of colors, which is ideal for color-coding foodhandling tasks. It's important to offer food employees a variety of sizes of gloves. This is not only critical for assuring worker safety, but it’s likely that a well-fitting glove will be worn more often than an ill-fitting one. Many glove providers offer easy fitting guides to help employees chose exactly the right size. Lastly, glove providers may provide different lengths of gloves applicable to the type of food preparation task – long gloves for mixing salads, short ones for plating entrées.
FDA estimates that approximately one in five foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States is caused by a sick food employee. To control the transfer of illness-causing microorganisms from food employees, the FDA outlines in the Food Code two measures: excluding sick workers from preparing food and prohibiting bare-hand contact with food through the proper use of foodhandling gloves.
Regardless of how carefully gloves are used, handwashing is still important. The Food Code indicates that hands must be washed before putting on gloves. The reason for this is to prevent the contamination of the glove by dirty hands and although not a significant issue, to prevent the migration of soil and microorganisms from the hand through the glove onto the food.
Foodhandling gloves are considered a utensil by the FDA in the Food Code and it’s wise to treat gloves in the same manner as any other utensil. A food employee is not likely to use a dirty utensil to handle cooked food, therefore gloves that have touched other foods or surfaces are to be changed before handling a different food. Other instances when gloves should be changed include, before beginning a new food preparation task; when the gloves become torn; and when worn continuously for four hours. Gloves are permitted by the FDA Food Code to be worn over fingernail polish and false fingernails, although some jurisdictions may have varying rules regarding this.
While a seemingly unassuming and simple object, gloves can cause food to become unsafe if not used properly. By choosing the right one for the foodhandling task, ensuring proper hand hygiene and changing when necessary, gloves can in fact be a valuable and essential tool in the food preparation toolbox can cause food to become unsafe if not used properly. By choosing the right one for the foodhandling task, ensuring proper hand hygiene and changing when necessary, gloves can in fact be a valuable and essential tool in the food preparation toolbox.
By Kristie Grzywinski
Poly, Vinyl & Nitrile Foodhandling Gloves
Ecolab’s disposable gloves come in a variety of sizes, fits, textures, and materials to ensure to ensure that your employees have all the necessary tools to follow safety protocols for handling food, cleaning, and other kitchen tasks. Our selection includes powdered and non-powdered vinyl gloves, poly gloves, and nitrile gloves.