Using Gloves in Food Preparation

Instructor: Sudha Aravindan

Sudha has a Doctor of Education Degree and is currently working as a Information Technology Specialist.

Do you know why food workers are often seen wearing gloves? In this lesson on food and beverage management, we will learn about the use of gloves as a key tool to foster hygiene and health, and as a means to prevent food-borne illnesses.

Why Use Gloves?

Rita was busy making a sandwich for a customer. Suddenly she heard a stern voice: 'You are not wearing gloves! I would prefer someone else make my sandwich. I need to talk to your manager'. Rita was surprised but also a little embarrassed. Her orientation training recommended the use of gloves at all times while preparing food. She apologized to the customer and promised her manager she would not make that mistake again.

The customer explained why she would not feel comfortable eating the sandwich Rita was making without wearing gloves. She said she had once fallen sick from food contamination at another restaurant where the server had made a salad with bare hands. Ever since, she has been acutely aware of how bacteria and viruses present in the hands can spread diseases ranging from the stomach flu to major outbreaks that can be quite serious or even fatal.

Gloves should be used when handling food to prevent contamination.
Use of Gloves in Food Service

Proper Use of Gloves

Rita's manager enrolled her in a training session where she could learn the proper use of gloves. Rita was thankful to management for giving her a second chance, and she made note of all the valuable lessons she learned.

Wash and Dry Hands

As she was getting ready to set up her salad station at work the day after her training, Rita remembered one of the behaviors she had learned - that hands have to be washed and dried thoroughly before wearing gloves. And when the gloves felt a little too messy, she remembered to wash and dry her hands before changing her gloves. She remembered from her training that this is to make sure that no contamination from the hands would pass on to the gloves.

Changing Gloves

Another important habit that was stressed at the training was how frequently she would need to change into a new pair of gloves.

  • When handling different types of foods: Rita was cleaning and cutting raw chicken for the grill. Then she moved to the salad workstation. Her manager reminded her that since salad is ready-to-eat food, she would have to remove the gloves she has on, wash and dry her hands, and wear new gloves before touching any of the salad ingredients.
  • If in contact with potential contamination: Back from her break, Rita is in the kitchen again. Suddenly in the middle of tearing lettuce leaves, she sneezed and in a reflex action used her hands to cover her mouth. She starts to go back to the lettuce leaves but stops in her tracks when she remembers that she would need to change gloves first! She would also need to change gloves if she touched her hair or scratched her face. The general rule is that if the glove comes into contact with any potential contaminant, it needs to be changed.
  • If more than four hours have passed: It is a hot summer day and very busy. Rita has been at her station for about four hours now, tossing French fries with salt and pepper. Her gloves are starting to feel sticky with the salt, pepper and oil from the fries, so she takes a quick break to change her gloves. At the training session, the importance of changing gloves frequently was stressed, especially because hands inside gloves can get sweaty, which can lead to bacterial growth. Also, the glove can get damaged and have minor tears or leaks that cause the skin to come into direct contact with the food.
  • Disposable vs. Reusable gloves: Rita loves disposable gloves since it saves her the effort to wash and dry them after each use, however many times she forgot to follow the guidelines for disposable gloves and ended up using the same glove more than once. Now, Rita knows that disposable gloves are for one-time use only, and that reusable gloves should be washed, cleaned, dried and stored in a sanitized container before use.

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