Food safety

When are food workers required to wear gloves? - All about glove use

Gloves are protective tools used to eliminate direct contact of food handlers with the food being prepared. Although ...

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  • Gloves are protective tools used to eliminate direct contact of food handlers with the food being prepared.
  • Although there is no absolute and country-wide regulation, gloves are recommended to be worn when handling ready-to-eat foods.
  • Gloves do not replace handwashing and do not offer absolute protection against food contaminants. 

In the food industry, many sets of equipment, utensils, and food preparation accessories can be used to help maintain food safety and a clean environment. Despite this, when improperly used, they could become a great source of foodborne illness-causing microorganisms.

One of the best examples of this situation is the use of gloves in food service. Although gloves offer a certain amount of protection against food contamination, the abuse of their use and improper protocols may worsen the situation. The food-handling team must always be aware of when are food workers required to wear gloves.

The use of gloves helps create a sanitary environment in food handling. It can reduce the amount of contact that food handlers commit when preparing food. Despite this, gloves can offer a false sense of security and may lead to even worse food safety issues. Protocols such as when to use and change gloves as well as what to do before wearing them must always be maintained to ensure that the objectives of these tools are not defeated by bad food handling practices.

This article will serve as a guide for food handlers and food safety teams in building protocols when it comes to wearing gloves in food service.


food worker wearing gloves


Why should you wear gloves when handling food?

Wearing gloves can keep food safe by reducing direct hand contact with food. It acts as additional food protection and a barrier to food contamination. Despite this objective, it can only be done if the food handlers practice proper procedures in wearing and changing gloves. Gloves used in food service are mostly polyethylene, latex, or vinyl gloves. The FDA included a directive on the required materials used for rubber tools in food service. The requirement states that rubber articles that are intended to be used repeatedly in handling foods must be made from generally recognized as safe substances.

The hands of food workers are some of the best carriers of food contaminants in the food industry. In a recent study reported by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), millions of Americans do not know how to practice proper hand hygiene and are spreading pathogens around them. Aside from the fact that prominent pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus live commensally on the skin of humans, food handlers can easily carry and transmit pathogens around a food area.

Proper wearing of gloves can help reduce the risk of cross-contamination of food, but only when properly done. Factors such as frequency of change, preoperational procedures, and disposal of gloves must always be considered.


What is the worst that can happen if you don't wear gloves when needed?

Wearing gloves can significantly protect customers and food handlers from foodborne illnesses. Failure to wear them properly in the correct situation increases the risk of causing a widespread foodborne illness outbreak. Food handlers use their hands in operating equipment, using utensils, and handling raw foods. This makes them a great mode of transferring pathogens from one point to another. If unprotected, contamination can spread and can cause an outbreak.


Do you have to wear gloves when serving food?

Servers are not required to wear gloves when serving food to customers. These food employees do not have direct contact with the food and only pose a very small risk of causing cross-contamination. What servers need is to ensure that their hands are always clean when holding the plates and cutleries. Food servers also hold other tools such as pens and paper when taking orders. Wearing gloves will only be uneconomical and can even increase the risk of cross-contamination.


serving food with gloves


Are you required to wear gloves when handling food?

There is no absolute law and regulation that requires food employees to wear gloves when handling food. Despite this, the FDA has recommended that handling foods with bare hands has a higher risk of contaminating foods. Additionally, some states in the US have laws that require ready-to-eat foods to be prepared without bare hand contact. The best way to fulfill this law is to wear gloves and practice preoperational hygiene practices as basic food safety principles before wearing gloves.


Can you handle food without gloves?

Yes, you can. As long as you are practicing strict and correct handwashing protocols before and after handling food, gloves may be unnecessary. The main point of wearing gloves is to minimize the direct contact between the hands of food workers and the food. Similar to handwashing, wearing gloves require a certain set of steps before being worn and after a task that needs to be followed to maintain food safety.


Which situation requires a food handler to wear gloves?

As mentioned, there is no strict rule that states that gloves are required to be worn when handling food. The only time that a food handler is required to wear gloves is when cuts, burns, or any open wounds are present on their hands. Although it is discouraged to wear nail polish in a food service kitchen, a food handler can wear gloves to protect the foods from the nail polish.

Wearing gloves to minimize direct or bare hand contact with the foods being prepared is an option given to food handlers. The directives of requiring food handlers to wear gloves come with a few sets of rules to ensure that the risk of contamination is not otherwise increased. 


Do chefs wear gloves when preparing food?

Not all chefs wear gloves when preparing food. When handling raw food, it is more important to practice frequent and proper handwashing than wearing gloves. Rather than being a critical food operation, wearing gloves can be considered an operational prerequisite control. Wearing gloves do not necessarily mean that the food being prepared will not be contaminated, but it does offer a certain level of protection. In some states, what is required is for a chef to wear gloves when preparing any cooked or ready-to-eat food before putting them on a plate.


chef wearing gloves when preparing food


Are gloves required in restaurants for the kitchen staff?

While it is not a legal requirement for kitchen staff to wear gloves, they can do so to help reduce cross-contamination, especially when handling ready-to-eat foods. In allowing them to wear gloves, directions such as allowing one pair of gloves for each food task must be clarified. Kitchen staff must never use the same glove for doing different operations in the kitchen.


Do restaurant cooks have to wear gloves?

Restaurant cooks are not allowed to use their bare hands in holding cooked and ready-to-eat foods. This means that they need to use utensils and tools such as tongs, spoons, forks, deli paper, and gloves. Using gloves is not a requirement for restaurant cooks but it can help them fulfill the requirements of minimizing bare hand contact with prepared foods.


FoodDocs food safety system


When are food workers required to change gloves?

In general individual sets of disposable gloves can only be used for a single task. Restaurant workers must change their gloves when they are to perform a different task. Regardless of how big or small a task is, food handlers must change their gloves before another operation

Additionally, any visible damage on the gloves would require the food handler to change their pair of gloves. When using a pair of gloves, they must fit the food handler perfectly to prevent unease or hinder full mobility.


Which activity requires a new pair of gloves? When must you change single-use gloves?

In a kitchen setup, several situations may require food handlers to change their gloves. These tools are not used as permanent protection against foodborne pathogens. Wearing gloves can keep food safe but that does not necessarily mean that the foods being prepared are already protected from contamination. Without proper food hygiene, gloves can even become the source of a foodborne illness outbreak.


Here are a few situations that would require a food handler to change their gloves:

  • When there are any visible defects on either glove.
  • Two hours of continuous use.
  • When switching or changing tasks such as before and after your break, preparing food disposing of garbage, or handling food to handling a piece of equipment.
  • After fixing hair.
  • Switching from one raw ingredient to another.
  • After handling cleaning solutions.
  • After handling allergenic foods.
  • After using hands to cover the mouth and nose when sneezing.
  • After going to the bathroom.


Alternatively, it is okay to use the same gloves to:

  • Handle different raw materials which will be cooked in the same skillet or pot.
  • Clean different food contact surfaces.
  • Continuously perform a single task

Changing your gloves before and after these scenarios is important. The described situations open up an opportunity for microbial pathogens to contaminate the glove currently in use and get transferred to the food being prepared. Although gloves are effective barriers against food contamination, they can also become sources of foodborne illnesses when not properly used.


wearing gloves when making pizza


What are the correct procedures and protocols when required to wear single-use disposable gloves?

Wearing disposable gloves comes with rules on how to wear them, when to change them, when to wear them, and how to dispose of them. Food handlers must be properly oriented on how to perform these tasks to ensure that their use of gloves will not promote contamination of any ready-to-eat food. Read the following sections to serve as a guide in building a comprehensive set of protocols for wearing gloves.


What must food handlers do before putting on single-use gloves? 

Before wearing a single-use pair of gloves, food handlers must be aware of what to do in preparation. Generally, food handlers must first thoroughly wash and dry their hands before wearing gloves. Proper handwashing ensures that your hands, nails, and wrists will not contaminate the glove when worn.

Wearing gloves does not replace washing hands. Handwashing must be correctly done to significantly reduce the present harmful bacteria on the hands. The process must at least take 20 seconds to ensure thoroughness.

Check out our handwashing food safety poster for a more detailed explanation of its matter.

Additionally, when wearing gloves, food handlers are not allowed to hold the areas that will come in contact with food. It is always advised to hold the gloves on the cuff part, while it is slightly folded inwards. These pointers preserve the sterility of gloves for food handling. 


What is the best way to use disposable gloves?

Disposable or single-use gloves should be worn for handling ready-to-eat foods. These food items will no longer go through any type of processing and the introduction of contaminants at this point only increases the risk of causing foodborne illnesses. Additionally, disposable gloves are best recommended when food handlers are injured or are using any prosthetics to help with their hand movements. 


How often must food handlers wearing disposable gloves change these gloves regardless of any other requirement?

During a continuous process such as the assembly of foods during service, hand gloves can only be used for a maximum of two hours and must be replaced after. Beyond this time, the risk of the growth of bacteria and other pathogenic organisms and causing cross-contamination increases. If the gloves are accidentally punctured or torn, they must be immediately replaced.


When are single-use gloves should be worn and how often must they be changed?

Single-use gloves can be worn when handling ready-to-eat and cooked foods. They can also be worn when performing a single, continuous task as well as if food handlers are injured. At a minimum, single-use gloves must be changed every two hours when used for a single task continuously. When switching between tasks, single-use gloves must be changed and disposed of. 


How long can a food worker wear gloves?

In general, single-use gloves can only be worn for a minimum period of 2 hours and a maximum period of 4. Within this range, a food handler can freely change the gloves in use for whatever valid reason they have. It may be due to damage to the gloves or when they need to switch operations. Prolonging the use of gloves, even if they are in perfect condition, can increase the risk of bacterial growth. Not only because of punctures but also because hands can sweat inside the gloves and create a favorable environment for pathogen growth.


How many times can you use disposable gloves?

Single-use or disposable gloves can only be worn and used once. Any type of gloves used for food handling must not be reused. Washing them will not offer the same protection as they do when they are new. Gloves are produced sterile, which means that they are completely free from pathogens when new. Once the gloves are removed, they must be properly disposed of in a dedicated trash bin.


food handler must change gloves in every 2 hours


Food safety compliance using a digital solution

A key to maintaining food safety compliance is to ensure that every protocol, regulation, and instruction for food safety is being monitored. This operation promotes accountability among food workers and encourages them to uphold food safety at all times. As such, every food safety team must always have a comprehensive food safety management system (FSMS).

Whether you are a long-time food business owner or a new one, switching to a digital platform for your FSMS is a great step towards a more efficient everyday operation. At FoodDocs, we offer the best digital solution to build a comprehensive FSMS. By just answering a few questions about your operations, you can get a digital FSMS in just an average of 15 minutes!

As you describe your everyday food safety operations, our system uses artificial intelligence and our wide bank of food safety knowledge to automatically create digital monitoring forms and procedures built specifically on the nature of your food service establishment. What's even greater is that these digital forms come with an auto-fill feature that cuts the time needed to monitor food service operations. All that your employees have to do is to verify or edit the information accordingly.

In addition, our system provides a smart notification feature to remind food workers of important food safety tasks. Need to change gloves every 2 hours? You can set this as a reminder and our system will send an intuitive notification to your food service employees via our mobile application. What's more, you can review every area of your food business using the real-time dashboard on our system.



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