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December 11, 2013

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New law: No bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, a new section (113961) of the California Retail Food Code will prohibit bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. The new requirement will make the use of gloves or utensils mandatory whenever ready-to-eat foods are handled.

Many local health departments have not yet provided any guidance documents and it is widely expected that this new law will have a soft rollout for enforcement, allowing more time for health department outreach and operator compliance.

The California Restaurant Association (CRA) will keep restaurant operators apprised of details as they become available. The Sacramento County Environmental Management Department has released the guidance below and it is expect that this guidance will be similar to what other local health departments will use:

Background

The National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Foods has identified three interventions that are effective in preventing the transmission of foodborne viruses and bacteria in food facilities:

  • Restricting ill employees from working with food (already in code).
  • Using proper hand washing procedures (already in code).
  • Preventing bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food (2013 code addition).

Specific requirements

“…(b) Except when washing fruits and vegetables, as specified in Section 113992 or as specified in subdivisions (e) and (f), food employees shall not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands and shall use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves, or dispensing equipment.

(c) Food employees shall minimize bare hand and arm contact with exposed food that is not in a ready-to-eat form.”

How do I comply?

Foodservice workers must wear disposable gloves or use utensils to handle ready-to-eat foods.

What is a ready-to-eat food?

A ready-to-eat is food is in a form that is edible without requiring additional preparation to be safe to eat. These foods include, but are not limited to:

  • any food that will not be thoroughly cooked or reheated (165F) before it is served
  • any food item that has already been cooked
  • prepared fresh fruits and vegetables served raw or cooked
  • salads and salad ingredients
  • fruit or vegetables for mixed drinks
  • garnishes, such as lettuce, parsley, lemon wedges, pickles
  • cold meats and sandwiches
  • raw sushi fish and sushi rice
  • bread, toast, rolls, baked goods.

Handling ready-to-eat foods

Food employees can handle ready-to-eat foods by using any of the following utensils: tongs, forks, spoons, bakery or deli wraps, wax paper, scoops, spatulas, dispensing equipment or single-use disposable gloves.

Single-use disposable gloves

Gloves may be used to handle ready-to-eat foods. However, gloves must be changed often. One pair of gloves may only be used for one task, used for no other purpose and must be discarded when damaged or soiled, when interruptions in food handling occur or when changing from one type of food to another. Gloves also must be changed every time hands are washed.

Hand washing

Foodservice workers are required to thoroughly wash hands using soap and warm water whenever hands or gloves are contaminated including but not limited to:

  • When entering the food preparation area
  • Before putting on clean single us gloves and between glove changes
  • Immediately before engaging in food preparation
  • Before dispensing, serving food, or handling clean tableware and service utensils
  • After using the toilet room
  • After touching any bare part of the body other than clean hands and arms
  • After coughing, sneezing, blowing nose, using tobacco, eating or drinking
  • After caring for a service animal or touching shellfish/ crustaceans in display tanks
  • During food preparation to remove soil/contamination and prevent cross-contamination
  • When changing tasks – between handling raw foods and ready to eat foods

Exceptions

In accordance with CalCode section 113961(f) food employees not serving a highly susceptible population may contact ready to eat foods if certain practices are followed, including pre-approval from local County health departments. The application for approval includes identification of foods touched by bare hands, documentation of employee training in proper hand washing, prevention of cross-contamination, a written health plan and documentation that employees use added measures to prevent contamination.

For more information on this option, contact local health department officials.

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Michael J Cortez

Reply

I work for a restaurant and gloves are now required for all ready to eat products. What type of gloves are recommended? I have sensitive skin and latex gloves irritate my hands with causes an allergic reaction.

Susan

Reply

I work in Washington, where we've had this "No Bare Hand Contact" requirement for about 10 years. See if you can use tongs or other utensil to do the work. Otherwise nitrile or vinyl gloves are non-allergenic. Please stay away from latex gloves--the latex allergy could get worse and many items in the medical community still use latex, which might make it harder for you to get medical attention later in life if you need it.

Frank Stefano

Reply

Where are you located? There are many sources for all types of gloves including Restaurant Depot. However, there may be less expensive sources depending where you are. Gloves are EXPENSIVE, so it pays to shop.

tyjuan green

Reply

When will they do this to every state across the board not just california but other stats as well? Cause you have a lot of people who don't wash there hands after useing the rest room.

'

Javier Sanchez

Reply

This law is ridiculous. How much more garbage will we be producing? Also how do gloves make things any cleaner/safer? Let's assume that the person preparing your food doesn't wash his hands when using the restroom. How does wearing gloves remedy this? Is he putting on the gloves with someone elses hands?!?! I fail to see how this changes anythign for the better.

tyjuan green

Reply

now i just got thru reading this whole article and now i see some problems. The first problem is how often will some be going into these place and checking if their employee is doing what they should. Far as changing their gloves and using a new pair every time they make an sandwich or cut any meat ect. Cause if u go into some places they put on a pair of gloves and then when they are finish with making that sandwich they just take those gloves off. They don't throw them away they put the gloves aside until the next order come along and then they put the same gloves back on to make another person sandwich. So my question is how will this law govern a business that is doing that not throwing there gloves away ?

dpaul162@msn.com

Reply

As a health educator, nurse, and microbiologist this is law is extremely flawed. I wonder how many scientists and microbiologist did they consult prior to making and passing this law. Hygiene such as hand washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of any infection. studies have that people who wear gloves in the restaurant industries tend to not wash their hands in between serving with gloves on and they also tend to perform many tasks with the same gloves on, i.e. use the cash register, handle money, and then go right on to make someone's food or touch someone's food. The gloves give a false sense of protection for the wearer. They don't notice their hands are dirty and therefore they don't change their gloves or wash their hands afterward. The purpose of wearing gloves in the hospital setting is to prevent contamination from blood borne and pathogens and potential contaminated bodily fluids and even then nurse managers have a hard time of getting health professionals to change their gloves in between patients and procedures.

Laws in this country are ineffective because decisions are made outside of expert consultation.

Susan

Reply

There is considerable study on this subject. I believe the impetus for the gloves/utensil to reduce bare hand contact is to prevent FECAL contamination from food workers from getting on the food, not from incidental cross-contamination from other products that are lower food safety risks such as the cash register, money, etc. that are handled with gloved hands. While customers may see no difference between gloves used in hospitals/acute care versus those used in restaurants for food prep--each environment has vastly different pathogens and end goals for protection. The rule also requires workers to wash hands at appropriate times--which will need Active Managerial Control and training in the food establishment (which I agree with you--there is always a "hard time" getting people to do it).

michael v

Reply

There has never been a case where a bar tender got a customer sick for putting cherries on a plastic stick, dropping olives in a martini, or even twisting a lemon slice in a vodca on the rocks. Bar tenders should wash constantly, and serve safely, but as to the new law--takes half the talent away. I feel that the new law will be detrimental to mixology. Othe "food handlers" i agree to the law.

J Redd

Reply

I've seen studies that say something like 70% of drink garnishes are contaminated with fecal bacteria. I don't think you can really say nobody has ever gotten sick from a bartender. Wash your hands and use utensils, and wear gloves while making garnishes.

Adam

Reply

The fecal matter you're talking about was there before anyone in the bar/restaurant even touched it. If it was really from the food handlers, then that would mean a vast majority of food handlers have terrible hygiene, which is just not the case.

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