Disposable Food Prep & Handling Gloves
Wearing disposable gloves for protection has become the standard across many different industries, but one industry where wearing gloves are not only helpful, but necessary, is the food industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million people get sick every year from foodborne illnesses–illnesses that are caused by the spread of food bacteria and viruses that are inherently in the food product and/or in the mishandling of food. People who work in the food and beverage industry thus use disposable gloves on a regular basis to prevent the spread of germs and contamination across consumables. But what are food prep gloves? How are they different from other types of disposable gloves? Where and how can they be used in the food prep and handling process? How do you choose the best disposable gloves for food prep? To address the specific needs of hotels, restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, bars and caterers, here’s our comprehensive guide to helping you learn everything you need to know about disposable gloves for food prep and handling.
What are food prep gloves?
Disposable gloves that are appropriate for food handling should be food grade gloves that are certified under FDA Title 21 CFR Part 177, which states that the glove components comply with the FDA regulations. The gloves must consist of materials generally recognized as safe for use in food or food packaging. According to this statute, food grade gloves must be both sanitary and impermeable.
How are food prep gloves different from other gloves?
Aside from being food grade and compliant to use with consumables, food prep gloves also tend to have better fit, greater comfort and tactile sensitivity, and less scent or residue that could possibly be left behind when in contact with food or beverages. They also are typically made to be easily put on and taken off for food handling tasks that require frequent glove changing.
Why wear gloves for food handling?
Aside from protecting the users hands, gloves have become a necessary tool in food handling to help prevent the transmission of germs and pathogens that can be spread through bare hand contact with foods. In fact, the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods concluded over 15 years ago that bare hand contact with food contributes greatly to the transmission of foodborne illnesses. Food handlers can very easily shed viral pathogens if they are infected, and they can shed these pathogens even before they realize they are sick. Most of these pathogens have a low infective dose, meaning that people don’t have to ingest many of them before they start to get sick. Since the FDA concluded that handwashing alone is not sufficient to prevent transmission of pathogens, gloves have become the industry standard to provide another barrier between potentially dangerous pathogens and the food the worker is preparing. This is especially important when handling raw foods or preparing foods that will not go through a cooking step before it reaches the customer. Practicing good hand hygiene while practicing proper glove use are essential to protecting users and the customers.
Where are disposable gloves used?
Due to higher health and safety standards, it is not uncommon to see disposable gloves being used at almost every food establishment we come across. Gloves are commonly used in restaurants, fast food joints, buffet style restaurants, cafeterias, diners, food trucks, street vendors, food trial booths, coffee shops, bars, caterers, convention centers, sports arenas, and much more!
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How can they be used in the food prep and handling process?
Disposable gloves play different roles in the food industry and can be used for a myriad of tasks, from washing and cleaning vegetables to hand preparing meals. Here are some of the most common uses of food prep gloves in the food industry:
Washing and cleaning vegetables and fruit
- Food cutting and prepping
- Mixing food and dishes
- Decorating or plating dishes
- Handling raw meats, poultry and seafood
- Making sushi and rolls
- Switching between different ingredients or food
- Cooking food
- Serving food
- Eating/touching food by hand
Wearing Gloves for Food Safety
Gloves are an essential part to food prepping and handling in the food industry. Unfortunately, gloves aren’t always used properly to protect the user and the customer. Remember, practicing good hand hygiene while practicing proper glove use are essential to protecting users and the customers.
Best Materials for Food Prep Gloves
Polyethylene, vinyl, compostable and nitrile are all appropriate materials for food prep gloves. Latex
Polyethylene gloves are good for food prep because they are thin, transparent, and good for single-use tasks. They are often the most popular because they are easy to find and most economical in price. On the flip side, they tend to produce the most waste since they are less durable and the frequent glove changing quickly adds up the cost.
Compostable gloves are ideal for food handling because they are food grade compliant, easy to put on and take off, powder-free and BPA-free, making them the most comfortable and the least likely to cause allergic reactions. These types of gloves also have great tactile sensitivity and puncture resistance. They are good for single-use tasks or tasks that require frequent glove changing, but the great thing about them is that they don’t add to landfill waste because they can be composted back into rich soil. Some compostable gloves are made up of mostly natural and renewable resources too, making them an eco-friendly choice.
Nitrile gloves are appropriate for food prep because their low-dermatitis potential and snug fit allows for greater control especially in tasks like cutting, decorating, or handling small details. The trade-off is that these gloves tend to be the most expensive of all the varieties.
Latex gloves can also be an option for food prep, however, the least recommended because of the prevalence of latex allergies. To eliminate any concerns for these potential allergic reactions in businesses employing food handlers that must use gloves and/or serving customers with gloves, latex gloves are typically not ideal. Furthermore, many states are now enforcing bans on latex gloves in order to protect people with latex allergies. For this reason, having an alternative to latex gloves in your food service establishment may be a necessity.
Powdered or Powder-Free Gloves?
Powdered gloves typically help reduce friction and sticking in the gloves, making it easier to put them on and take them off. Additionally, powdered gloves tend to be more tear resistant since there is reduced friction. While the powder itself is typically just cornstarch, some may not like the messy residue it leaves behind on their hands, equipment or food. When determining what kind of gloves are best for food handling, you will typically want to choose from the powder-free varieties to reduce the risk of discomfort and contamination. Many new types of powder-free gloves are becoming just as easy to slip and take off, like loose-fit gloves, so the trade-off is minimal.
The Advantages of Eco-Friendly Gloves
Since gloves have become such an essential part of the food handling process, it is not uncommon for a food establishment to go through hundreds of gloves each day. In fact, it is estimated that the US food industry uses roughly 30 billion disposable gloves per year, and between 45-75% of these gloves are vinyl (PVC) disposable gloves. A lot of these disposable gloves, if not most, are ending up in landfill leaching dangerous phthalates and toxic emissions at incineration and landfills, as well as during manufacturing. This is where buying eco-friendly and compostable gloves can help. Eco Gloves, for example, are made from renewable biobased materials and decompose in 90 days without leaving behind any toxins or microplastics. Compostable gloves not only produce less emission in the production process than traditional plastic, latex and nitrile gloves, but the end of life of the product can be composted and turned into rich soils that can be returned to the earth. For establishments that are relying on frequent glove use, it is highly recommended to buy compostable gloves so you can protect your workers and have peace of mind that you are protecting the planet as well.
Is it worth it to buy in bulk?
Since most food prep tasks require frequent glove changing, busy food establishments will go through many hundreds of gloves each day. Going through gloves quickly means restaurants can spend thousands of dollars on gloves each year–this is where buying in bulk can help. For one, buying in bulk typically means you will find better cost-savings because buying by the carton typically makes you eligible for some wholesale pricing. Secondly, buying in bulk can help ensure you never have to run out of gloves prematurely. Without enough gloves on hand, you could be unsafely putting your workers and customers at risk. Buying in bulk is a great way to help you reduce business costs for the year. Thirdly, purchasing in bulk means less time wasted on making purchases like over and over, and also less carbon emissions in shipping multiple orders over a course of time. If you’re going to go the route of protecting the earth, why not consider all the possible ways you could help.Let us help you make the switch to better, eco-friendly gloves for your business time. Sign up to get wholesale bulk disposable savings on Eco Gloves.