The new law prohibiting bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods went into effect Jan. 1, but health inspectors agreed – at the urging of the California Restaurant Association – to delay implementation and allow for a six-month soft roll-out that would focus on providing restaurants across the state more guidance, time to train staff and adjust to the new requirements. The extra time also would have allowed greater clarity and access to the exemption process allowed within the law, which would be managed and enforced at the local level.
Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) acknowledged the challenges that continue to surround the implementation of this new law and has stepped forward with new legislation (AB 2130) to press pause on the new requirement. He announced the bill at a press conference in Sacramento Feb. 24.
“Given the challenges presented by, essentially, mandating plastic gloves for all who handle food in the restaurant and culinary arts we support reassessing the prohibition of bare-hand contact,” CRA President + CEO Jot Condie said. “Safety is our industry’s No. 1 priority, and California boasts one of the highest-trained restaurant workforce in the nation, with food safety training - including proper hand-washing techniques – mandated for anyone handling, preparing or serving food.
“While the intention of everyone involved was to align the Cal Code with federal regulations it has quickly become clear that a one size-fits-all implementation for such a diversely structured industry presented too many operational challenges. The right course of action is being pursued by Assemblyman Pan."
Currently only eight states do not prohibit bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods in their food codes: Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. The provision was adopted by the Food and Drug Administration in 1993.
“It’s not about whether there are gloves or not, it should be about whether the local business and the health inspector have worked together to create a safe environment for the customer,” Dr. Pan said.
AB 2130 (Pan) will likely move through the legislative process this spring and already has a great deal of bipartisan support within the Legislature.