Contaminated Gloves Can Cause Food Borne Illness

In the last three blogs, I discussed what the movie “Contagion” can teach us about the anatomy of food borne illness epidemics, how proper gloves use is important in the prevention of food borne illness and not all gloves are equal. Now, let’s prevent cross contamination.

In healthcare, we put gloves on a certain way, protect the glove from touching anything that could be contaminated, watch for leaks and take the glove off so as not to contaminate ourselves. All techniques are applicable to food safety.

Handle the glove and put it on and use them so as not to contaminate the gloves.


  • Wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds before putting on gloves.
  • Assume your hands are dirtier than the glove removed from the package.
  • Grab the glove by the opening around the wrist.
  • Don’t touch the remainder of the glove. If you do, you contaminate it.
  • Put one glove on, hold the other with your gloved hand and put on the 2nd

Now you have gloved like a real professional and reduced glove contamination.

 Don’t contaminate the glove while working.

  • Use of gloves reduces disease spread but you have to keep them clean.
  • Anything the glove touches could contaminate the glove.
  • THINK! The door knob, register, money you handle or telephone are not clean.
  • THINK! Your hair, your face, your cell phone is not clean.
  • When switching between preparing raw meats and other foods change gloves.
  • If you contaminate gloves, change them.

In health care, we assume anything below the waist is not clean. You should too!

When taking the glove off, don’t contaminate yourself, prep areas or other foods.

  • After handling raw meats your gloves are contaminated.
  • Grab the wrist of the glove and roll the glove off covering the glove’s outside.
  • Put the contaminated glove in a hazard container.
  • Wash your hands on the small chance the glove leaked or you soiled yourself.

The gloved material breaks down with use. Leaks can occur and you may not know it.

Torn Glove


Vinyl gloves should optimally be changed every hour.
Nitrile gloves should optimally be changed every two hours.


Gloves cost pennies. Change them often. Change them if in doubt about cross contamination. One legal suit from a food borne illness event costs tens of thousands. An outbreak could cost millions!

If you follow these healthcare proven guidelines you become a super star in food safety and will stand out ahead of your peers. But, most importantly you have done a small but critical part in reducing the misery of food borne illness. That’s a passion to aspire to.



Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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