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Food Service Gloves: Pros and Cons

Food Service Gloves: Pros and Cons A line cook at a bar and grill is preparing a hamburger. He puts on food service gloves and grabs a handful of raw ground beef and forms a patty. Without changing gloves the worker proceeds to top the grilled patty with lettuce, tomato and onions. After sending out the burger the line cook starts the process over without changing his gloves. This is just one example of food service glove use gone wrong. The problem is that this scenario is probably not uncommon and is just one of the many ways food can be contaminated through improper glove use.
 

The Food Service Glove Problem

Food service gloves can provide a false sense of security for employees and customers. Once the gloves are on people feel as though the food being handled is safe and not being contaminated by the server’s hands. This can be true if the server closely follows the right protocol but the majority of the time the gloves are not helping and in some cases they are hurting the situation.

Studies have found that improper glove use can be a bigger problem than poor hand hygiene. This is true for a few different reasons. Gloves do not provide the level of protection that many people think they do and still require hand washing. Also workers tend to become more careless and take more risks when wearing gloves.

The Journal of Food Protection studied food service glove use in 2007 and 2010. The journal reported that hand washing was less likely to occur when employees were wearing gloves. This is a frightening trend for restaurateurs because these gloves will not fully protect food from being contaminated when the hands they are covering are not clean. In fact, gloves can act as a breeding ground for bacteria and actually raise the risk of food contamination. In their 2010 study the Journal of Food Protection concluded that the warm, moist conditions inside a glove are necessary for microbial proliferation and can increase pathogen transfer onto foods through leaks in the gloves, exposed skin or just by taking the gloves off.

Using food service gloves in a restaurant on a daily basis can also be very wasteful. Most of these gloves are disposable and pairs can be discarded a dozen times an hour just by one employee. These numbers start to add up fast. This is wasted money for your business and more trash in the environment.

During food prep a server or line cook can be handling several different types of food at the same time. If one of these foods is raw meat then the server is required to change gloves before picking up a different piece of food. Or if the worker opens a refrigerator, sneezes, coughs, handles money or touches any other contaminated surface they are required to change gloves. If servers are changing gloves as often as they are required to, which most of the time is not the case, they will be using a large amount of disposable gloves and slowing down the food preparation time.

Having said this there are some positive reasons to wear food service gloves. One situation where glove use can be important is when preparing sushi. Because these workers are handling raw fish they need to take certain precautions to ensure customer safety and gloves make it easier to do so. For example, if a sushi chef is preparing a roll with shellfish and a customer orders a different roll and is allergic to shellfish, gloves make it easy for the chef to switch materials safely.

Food service gloves also create a positive customer perception about the cleanliness of your business operation. This as mentioned before may be a false sense of security for the customer but either way they have a positive outlook about the restaurant.

Types of Gloves

There are currently many different options when buying food service gloves. From latex to polyethylene they’re all a little different and they all have their own benefits and problems.

Latex

Latex gloves are frequently used in the food industry. They can withstand exposure to high heat, feature a tight fight and good dexterity. The main problem with latex is that some people are severely allergic to the material and use of these gloves has been banned in 3 states.

Nitrile

Nitrile gloves are durable with good dexterity. The problem with this material is these gloves often contain DEHP. DEHP is a potential carcinogen and could be harmful to customers and servers.

Polyethylene

Polyethylene gloves are the cheapest of the group. These gloves may be affordable but are far from durable because they tend to tear easily and can not be exposed to heat.

Vinyl

Vinyl gloves tend to be considered an acceptable alternative to latex but they have problems of their own. These gloves have been described as “infection control nightmares” by Food Safety Magazine. This is because they can begin leaking sometimes as soon as they are donned by the worker.

The Centers for Dieses Control and Protection (CDC) recommends that instead of requiring businesses to use food service gloves it would be better to revise food prep methods to reduce the number of times an employee needs to wash their hands. This can be done by limiting the number of times the worker has to handle raw meat or other contaminating materials.

The issue of food service gloves and their safety is important because it can directly affect the public’s health. Food borne illnesses can be very dangerous and detrimental to diners’ health.

As a restaurateur you are in a position to positively impact this issue. Whether you decide it is better for your servers to use gloves or practice regular hand washing it is important to commit to making sure your food is safe. This can be done by training the staff on the correct way to use food service gloves and on maintaining proper hand hygiene. Make all of the necessary equipment readily available to make this easy for your employees. Do this by always having a supply of gloves near the food prep area or by always making sure your sink is stocked with enough soap and towels.

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Food Safety Tips: HACCP

Food Safety Tips: HACCPThe HACCP, or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, is a set of guidelines and procedures for food safety originally developed by NASA for astronaut food 30 years ago.  NASA needed a food safety program with “zero tolerance” to protect astronauts from foodborne illnesses while in space.  One can imagine the consequences of a bad sandwich in a spacesuit….

Anyway, these guidelines have been adopted by most restaurants to ensure the safety of the food product and ingredients used and prepared in their kitchens.

HACCP is unique because it focuses on analyzing problem points in the production of food and develops ways to address those hazards rather than testing final products for food borne illnesses.

As a restaurateur, you are probably already familiar with HACCP guidelines.  This information is meant to be a quick refresher course on all the aspects of an effective HACCP program.  Of course, different local health standards in different areas of the country will have their own guidelines for food service, and you should always follow those guidelines over anything said here.

The HACCP system is internationally used and recognized.  The principles of a HACCP are:

1) Conduct an analysis of food safety hazards in the preparation and production of food products in a commercial kitchen.  The three hazard categories include biological (pathogens like bacteria or viruses), chemical (toxins or poisonous agents), and physical (foreign objects).

2) Identify critical control points for managing these three types of risks.  The most common control points in the commercial kitchen include heating, cooling, preparing, and serving food product.  Use NSF certified restaurant equipment and restaurant supplies to make sure the tools in your kitchen are designed with food safety in mind.

Also keep in mind the HACCP system is designed to cover all the steps in the process for food, from harvesting to consumption, so even though your restaurant may not become involved until the end of that process, you should still attempt to indentify problem points that occur before product ever comes through your door.  Make sure you know your food suppliers and their food safety procedures.

3) Establish critical limits for food passing through a critical control point.  For instance, cooked food must reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit, etc.

4) Develop a system that monitors critical limits and ensures they are Food Safety Tips: HACCPbeing met.  Thermometers are key to making sure food reaches the 140 degree critical limit.  Data loggers can monitor temperature fluctuations over time in walk-in refrigerators or freezers.  No matter what, the critical limits need to be logged and quantified in order for you to understand if the critical points you addressed in the hazard analysis phase are being met.

5) Have procedures to address problems when critical limits are not met.  The whole point of establishing a critical limit at critical points in the food preparation process is to spot potential problems immediately.  Once that system functions properly and actually finds a problem, you need to have procedures to address them.

6) Establish an effective documentation system for any HACCP program that records problems and data like time and temperature.  Without such documentation, you have no way of identifying problems in your food safety program and documenting for health inspectors the good practices of your HACCP program.

Modern food safety equipment like data loggers can be connected directly into a computer and temperatures automatically loaded into a database.  Taking advantage of such technology not only saves you time but makes your safety program more effective.

Controlling the critical food safety points in your restaurant is key to anybody’s success in the food service industry.  Having an effective HACCP program is good business practice, and will keep your customers safe and the health inspector happy.

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10 Back Burner Food Safety Tips

10 Back Burner Food Safety TipsOne of the most important responsibilities of any restaurateur is the proper implementation of a food safety program.  A lapse in food safety can spell the doom of your restaurant, and if you’re just opening a new restaurant, it can mean a delayed opening night.

Good food safety isn’t something you achieve once and then forget about.  It’s something you practice every day your restaurant is open, from the moment product leaves the truck at the back door all the way through to the time the busboy clears the plates after your guests have finished their meals.

Below are 10 food safety tips from The Back Burner that will help you brush up your program.  You have probably already implemented many of these strategies to one degree or another.  Think of this a refresher course and the chance to learn something you didn’t know.  And if you have food safety topics not covered here that really should be, let us know!

1. Shop For Suppliers – As all of the food recent food recalls have taught us, food safety doesn’t start when product comes off the truck at your restaurant.  The supply chain is much longer than that, and things can go wrong well before you ever lay eyes on a box of tomatoes or a head of lettuce.  Learn how to diversify your supply chain and hold it accountable.

2. Managing Temperature - One of the most important aspects of food safety is monitoring food temperatures and making sure it’s always out of the danger zone.  Learn some effective strategies for managing temperature.

3. Proper Handwashing – All your food safety management strategies can go down the drain in a flash if one employee doesn’t wash their hands properly and then handles food.  Learn how to train and supervise employees effectively here.

4. Be Your Own Health Inspector – Why wait for the health inspector to tell you what needs to  be fixed with your food safety program?  Be proactive and think like an inspector before they come to your restaurant.  That way, your inspections will be a breeze.

5. In The Field At Turley’s – This venerable Boulder restaurant shares some of their food safety strategies for the benefit of all.  There’s nothing like some real world experience to put things in perspective.10 Back Burner Food Safety Tips

6. Understanding NSF and UL – Everybody’s seen the NSF and UL labels on products in their restaurant’s kitchen.  What do those labels really mean?  Learn more in this article.

7. HACCP - If you don’t know what this stands for, then you definitely need to read this article.  Even if you do, you might learn a couple things about this core food safety program.

8. Data Loggers – If you don’t use this vital piece of food safety equipment, you might consider it after reading this article.

9. Vacuum Breakers And Backflow Valves – Clean water is vital to any food safety program, and increasingly health inspectors are looking at restaurant plumbing to make sure you are safeguarding the water supply.  Some simple plumbing parts you can install yourself will make the inspector happy and keep your water safe.10 Back Burner Food Safety Tips

10. Safe Seafood – Seafood handling can be especially tricky in a restaurant.  Learn how to keep your seafood tasting great and your customers safe.

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Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Managing Temperature

Maintaining proper food temperature should be a constant process in your commercial kitchen, from the time it arrives through your back door to the time it arrives on the customer’s plate.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Managing TemperatureWhen the delivery truck arrives, immediately check food products for temperature.  Reject food that arrives above 41 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once you have ensured that the food has arrived in good condition, store it immediately.

Use a good thermometer.  Make good thermometers available to your staff to help with the temperature monitoring process.  Make sure you and your staff are trained in proper thermometer use:

Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of what you want to measure, and make sure the tip is in about the center.

Wait about five minutes for a proper reading.  Newer digital thermometers will beep when they have reached the absolute temperature.

Sanitize the thermometer before and after each use.

Constantly monitor food temperatures. Develop and post a temperature monitoring schedule for all the different food types you are currently storing and prepping.

Train other employees to help you maintain this schedule.  Stay out of the food temperature danger zone between 41 degrees and 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

For heated foods, post a safe temperature chart for cooked foods and train your employees to properly use a thermometer to check food temps during heating.

Safe Chilling and Heating Instructions

Keeping out of the 41 degrees to 145 degrees danger zone should be the top priority for all foods and ingredients.  The one exception to the danger zone rule is freshly cooked food, which can be held at 140 degrees before serving, although you should establish a deadline for hot held food after which you should either rapidly chill and store the product or dispose of it.

If you are chilling food that was heated, chilling it rapidly is the best way to prevent bacterial growth.  Use a blast chiller or a cold paddle to bring food temperature down quickly.

This also retains maximum food freshness.  After food has been rapidly cooled, store it in a commercial refrigerator or freezer.  Use storage containers to maintain freshness.

If you are serving cold foods, use a chill pan with built-in refrigerant and ice to ensure food maintains the correct temperature.  Monitor temperature to make sure food items are not rising above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

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