Proper Glove Use Will Reduce Food Borne Illness

The Critical FDA Food Code item #9 that is associated with an increased risk of food borne illness is failure to use gloves when preparing ready to eat foods (RTE).

How do you feel when you notice the cook or server is touching your RTE food without gloves?

A turn off, isn’t it? It also increases the risk of transmitting disease.

Imagine a dentist putting his/her hands in your mouth without using gloves. Would you ask him/her to put on gloves? When food service workers touch RTE foods without using gloves, they are literally putting their fingers into the customer’s mouth. Just like dentists, food service workers are entrusted with the public health. Glove use when serving RTE foods is critically important to reducing
food borne illness.

restaurant plating

“The spread of germs from the hands of food workers to food is an important cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants and accounts for 89% of outbreaks.”

 Are food preparers or food servers then required to wear gloves?

 Yes, and maybe. It is an FDA Food Code critical violation for a food preparer or server to touch ready-to-eat foods with bare hands. Wearing disposable gloves meets the national standard and is considered best practice in reducing the transmission of disease. Unfortunately, not all states enforce this standard. Not all food preparers and or servers conscientiously comply.

From the CDC report mentioned above, it might be inferred that any protective glove barrier will help. But not all gloves are equal.  A topic worthy of next week’s blog post.

As a physician for over 40 years, I know that glove use is one way of preventing transmission of disease. It is an expected standard when health care workers examine patients. It is also an expected standard and best practice when food service workers touch ready to eat food. Variance from that standard blemishes a food safety image.

In reviewing our Dining Grades database of over 4 million health department scores and hundreds of thousands of violations, we have discovered national trends. A subset of that database is the distribution of FDA Food Code top violations.

Failure to use gloves when preparing ready to eat foods is a top trending violation. Attention to education about that violation reduces food borne illness risk and reduces the potential of a tarnished public food safety image.




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 an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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