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Hands off my food

Hands off my food

Hate taking a front-row seat at your favourite restaurant and watching chefs get elbow-deep in your dinner? Does the sight of a sushi chef hand rolling your nori rolls make you queasy?

Under sweeping new Californian legislation, both restaurant workers and bartenders must now wear single-use gloves during food and drink prep.

The rules apply to all “ready-to-eat” foods, which translates to foods that are not cooked or reheated before being served to customers. That means, single-use gloves must be worn when handling fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and, of course, rolling sushi.

And bartenders can forget handling ice, fruits, or last-minute garnishes such as olives or a squeeze of lemon as they flit between customers on busy weekend nights. They, too, must now frantically reach for their nearest set of tongs, scoops or gloves before diving into the next mixed drink order.

Once only a suggestion from the American Food Safety Code to eliminate the spread of foodborne illness, the measures are now a requirement across the state for a preliminary six-month period.

Predictably, the new laws have been a hot topic among chefs, who are used to getting their hands dirty as they sprinkle, roll, or work love into their food – something they feel gloves will prohibit.

Under the new measures, fine-dining restaurants will join the likes of McDonalds, Subway and other fast-food chains that have been enforcing similar measures for years.

But have the Californian food safety officials gone too far? And are the regulations only going to promote lazy hygiene practises?

“The Band-Aid of a blanket glove regulation is potentially dangerous,” says Neal Fraser, chef-owner of LA’s BLD restaurant and Fritzi Dog. “People get into the tendency to not wash their hands. And environmentally, it’s very unfriendly.”

Will sushi chefs, who often rely on a sense of feel when judging ingredient quantities, be banished to a lifetime of battling glutinous rice sticking to their gloves?

Chefs are like artists in their own rights, and artists rely on touch, texture and, some will argue, the energies of their subjects when completing their masterpieces.

Then again, it’s every patron’s worst nightmare to be woken up in the middle of the night by the painful convulsions of food poisoning, especially if the suspected meal cost you a quarter of your weekly salary.

Do you think we should follow the lead of the Californian food safety code, or is it taking it too far? Let us know below. 

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2 Comments on Hands off my food


  • Catherine
    January 24, 2014 6:55 am

    It’s taking it too far. If you’re really that worried about professionals handling your food you should cook for yourself and eat at home in a sterilized area. Chefs wash their hands at least twice between toilet, smoke and food breaks and know not to touch their face or hair unless they’re prepared to do it again. It’s drummed into them at college. (and even tho I left the industry, well before I qualified, I still do it automatically at home!) Gloves that have sat around and waited to be put can contaminate food more easily than freshly washed hands.

  • Denny
    January 30, 2014 12:44 pm

    I agree with Catherine. As long as you are in a reputable establishment the staff should all be well trained. I personally love watching fresh sushi being made. Go to a place you know and one look at the kitchen will tell you if the staff are clean. In Singapore the stalls in food courts are regularly inspected and given a number to prove their cleanliness. Every one strives for the top number. Perhaps it would be a more sensible approach.

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