To Glove or to wash; the debate and risks of using just one method in your kitchen

Glove usage has become a controversial and hot topic in the food service industry in the past couple years, glove supporters have tried to make it legislation that it be mandatory for food handlers to wear gloves;  this point is argued  by Operators seeing  the immediate benefits of creating a barrier between the handler’s hands and the prepared food.  However, what are the risks associated with relying solely on glove usage and what is the best method of preventing food borne illness through disease transmission via hands?  There are benefits of both sides and within this article it will be determined that a combination of both is the best practice.

When discussing the issue of gloves vs. hand washing, it is important to discuss the reasons for having a procedure in place when working with food directly.  There are 2 main ways that food can become contaminated and cause food borne illness.  The first is that the person preparing food has an illness or is directly carrying a transient microbial organism.  This is caused by coming into direct contact with a bodily fluid and then transferring it to food.  The second is disease transmission through a contaminated object, meaning that the food handler touched money for example, that was contaminated and then touched food that was being served.

The argument for glove usage is that there is a high percentage of employees in the food service industry that do not wash their hands adequately or timely to eliminate the bacteria off their hands. However, this being said if the manger is relying solely on glove usage to prevent transmission, than if there is a tear or rip in the gloves, the handler has a high risk of transmitting any bacteria to the food and to increase this risk, it has been proven by the bioscience laboratories, that glove juice sampling has a higher bacteria count due to the ideal growing environments inside the glove!  To further educate managers, vinyl food grade gloves often come with pre-existing puncture holes already in them.  This means that without proper hand washing prior to glove application, there is already a higher risk of disease transmission.

Hand washing has numerous components that need to be in place in order for this process to be effective against bacteria. The first is the actual mechanical removal of microorganisms and the second is the killing of the microorganisms with the soap or gel used to do so. Therefore proper training and signage around hand washing stations is critical and the proper soap or gel provided by the manager or the hospital is necessary. Therefore, with a human factor variable, is hand washing considered safe on its own? Defiantly not.

Therefore, in research and observation, it is clear that the best practice is to have an effective hand washing program in place with educational materials and ongoing monitoring system as well as providing gloves to those food handlers directly coming in contact with ready to eat product.  BioScience laboratories have also listed some critical points in having a food safe environment and decreasing the risk of food borne illness being transmitted in your operations.

They include:

1. Hand washing and gloving should be utilized by high risk employees coming in direct contact with food; where possible sanitized tongs and other serving utensils should be used.

2. Mandatory training and ongoing support should be provided to employees working and preparing ready to eat foods.

3. Food service operators should have a hygiene policy in place with necessary disciplinary actions as a result of non-compliance. This policy should include bathing and showering on a regular basis, fingernail maintenance and jewelry should all be included in this policy.

4. The monitoring and accountability of the above recommendations must be complied to and enforced.

More resources and actual lab studies are available at:

Bioscience Laboratories:


Or visit Bioscience labs blog!


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