The Unintended Consequences of Wearing Gloves for Fast Food Workers

When done right, a restaurant worker wearing gloves protects patrons from illness. And by done right, I mean they change gloves each and every time they switch from handling food to handling something else. 

But opponents of the new law in California mandating glove usage by restaurant workers say that the new law will decrease how much people actually wash their hands. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a foodservice worker brush their glove up against their nose, touch a dirty cash register, or open a refrigerator door with their gloves on.

In other words, will gloves just give people a false sense of security about the hygiene of their prepared food? Other complaints raised against the new law are the creation of more waste and an additional cost for restaurateurs.

Despite these concerns, every employee should wear gloves.  Even if local rules don't require it, having your workers wear gloves tells customers that you're looking out for them by running a clean restaurant.  This will win loyalty from customers, who are especially observant about the way their food is prepared.  

That said, gloves should be worn in conjunction with a proper hand hygiene program that includes how to wash and dry hands properly, how to select the proper gloves for the required task*, and how to properly dispose of gloves. In short, you need to create a culture of training, ongoing monitoring, and support.  

As my Dad used to tell my brother and I growing up, “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” Just wearing gloves for the sake of appearance may, in fact, lead to harmful unintended consequences.

*The Right Glove for the Job

For making sandwiches, bagging bagels, garnishing plates, prepping pizza or tacos, wrapping silverware, filling ice buckets, setting up or breaking down display cases, or sampling food, economical poly gloves work well.

For handling sliced cheese, working the breakfast grill, cracking eggs, squeezing juices, prepping pies, pizzas, tacos, and meats, vinyl gloves are appropriate.

For tasks which require flexibility and dexterity, consider using synthetic gloves. Synthetics act and feels like latex without the potential for latex sensitivity.

For tasks requiring puncture resistance (i.e., handling shellfish, deboning meat, etc.) and a high level of dexterity, the best choice for protection is nitrile gloves. Nitrile gloves are also used for meat preparation, as they are resistant to breaking down when coming into contact with animal fats.

NTDs: What they mean to you and me

America has a hidden epidemic of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).  As the world continues to shrink, there has been an outbreak of third-world diseases in industrialized countries, including the United States.

U.S. citizens now have diseases with which most people aren’t even familiar.  In fact, most doctors are unaware of NTDs, and so often, they remain undiagnosed.  These diseases include Toxocara canis, Chagas disease, Ascaris lumbricoides, Strongyloides stercoralis, Dengue fever and cysticercosis.  If you think these names sound scary, check out the links to find out what they do.

Exacerbating the challenge, only 0.6% of new drugs developed over the past 25 years are meant to treat NTDs.  That's despite the fact that NTDs accounted for more than 11% of the global disease burden.

So how widespread is the problem?

NTDs like Chagas Disease, Toxocara canis, worms and other diseases usually found in the developing world may already afflict 14 million people in the U.S., according to Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine, the founder of the first dedicated school of tropical medicine in America.  Even Dengue fever, largely driven from the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s by DDT application, is making a comeback in America.

The bad news is that government response has been tepid.  In 2010, a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that was aimed at funding the surveillance of NTDs failed to become law.  So much for government intervention.

The good news is that the private sector has increased investment in NTD-treating drug development in light of this recent NTD emergence. Certain cutting-edge biotech, antiviral drug, vaccine and diagnostic test companies are standing to pick up the slack. GlaxoSmithKline, for instance, has introduced a vaccine for malaria which is currently in the final development and testing stage.

In addition, non-profit groups such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also sponsor research on NTDs.  To date, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has funded close to US$3MM for NTD-based research.

Many of the NTDs are vector-borne diseases.  That means that they can be transmitted by another person, an animal or a microorganism that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen.  Pathogens may enter the body via a bug bite, skin breaks or mucous membranes.

Infection could also result from eating infected food or coming into contact with contaminated bodily fluids.

It is important to follow your local health code. The rules vary state by state, but in many places, food service workers are required to wear gloves, at a minimum vinyl gloves, and sometimes nitrile gloves. These prevent the transfer of germs from the hands to the food.

So how can you protect yourself from NTDs?  One important step is using proper hand protection such as these nitrile gloves and Personal Protective Apparel (PPE) apparel including face masks, shoe covers, and, when necessary, protective "bunny suits."

Anyone who is in a high-risk environment should take precautions to prevent infections. With NTDs, as the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

NEW Glove Guide for Pest Control Operators


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Some of the topics covered in this glove guide include: safety from animal and rodent bites and scratches; protection while mixing and applying pesticides; the best gloves for working in high-risk environments, and more!

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gloves

Picking the right disposable gloves can be tricky.

Gloves are a critical part of hand safety, protecting you from cuts, pricks, and infectious diseases. But you may be buying gloves in volume, so cost control is important, too.

You don't want to be underprotected... but you also don't want to overspend on gloves that are more than the job demands. 

Here we present a number of useful articles to help you make the best choice. 

What Are Nitrile Gloves And Why Use Them?

Why Use Different Color Gloves?

About Onyx Black Nitrile Gloves

About Cobalt Blue Nitrile Gloves

About Blaze Orange Nitrile Gloves

Glove Chemical Resistance Chart

Still confused? No problem - Contact Us or give us a ring at 877-9324568 and we'll be happy to help you. 

Should You Remove Disposable Glove Suppliers as Middlemen?

Stanley Thai, founder of Malaysian rubber glove manufacturer Supermax, is cutting out the middleman. Supermax, the world's second largest rubber glove producer, is now selling direct to consumers.

As a means of realizing savings, buyers (for example, England's National Health Service – trying to find £1bn of savings in its supply chain by 2016) may choose to buy direct from manufacturers rather than going through a disposable glove supplier middleman.

Of course, sourcing direct from a manufacturer does have its disadvantages. When taking advantage of Mr. Thai's new business model, the buyer assumes the following risks:

  • Since manufacturers don't have mechanisms in place for customer support, service often lacks. They will first and foremost protect their larger client relationships, and customer service sometimes suffers.
  • Wholesalers/importers take the risk of buying too much of one size and not enough of another, causing a supply imbalance.
  • Returns could also be an issue. For example, the manufacturer could make the customer pay for return shipping and a restocking fee.

Read more about sourcing direct from the manufacturer in this article from The Telegraph.

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