Personal protective equipment has become a common sight in restaurants in the Covid era – and it serves an important purpose. However, the gloves and tongs your team use to distance themselves from foods may serve to make contamination less front-of-mind in the midst of a hectic shift. After all, if you have a glove between your hand and the raw chicken you’re preparing, you may be more likely to mindlessly touch a surface that can then be contaminated. Make sure your kitchen staff change gloves between tasks, wash hands frequently with soapy running water, and sanitize food preparation surfaces routinely to minimize the risk of spreading contaminants around your kitchen without knowing it.
The past year has sharpened our focus on the spread of viruses. As we come through the pandemic, take care to maintain simple practices that go far in preventing the spread of bacteria. According to the CDC, bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods causes about 30 percent of restaurant foodborne illness outbreaks each year. Beyond all-important frequent handwashing, StatefoodSafety.com advises using gloves, deli tissue or tongs to provide a barrier between hands and ready-to-eat foods, and carrying plates, glasses and utensils in a way that avoids the touching of eating or drinking surfaces.
If gloves have become a part of your pandemic food safety protocol, make sure your staff know how best to use them and where they can fall short, since they can introduce new risks if the wearer isn’t mindful of them. Above all, gloves can give the wearer a false sense of security, so enforce the need to avoid cross-contaminating foods and preparation areas while wearing gloves, and to wash hands with soap and water, then dry them, before and after wearing gloves. Also ensure the gloves are a proper fit, since rips or punctures could lead to contamination. Employees should change (and discard) disposable gloves between tasks, after touching hair, mouth or nose, or after four hours of use. Sturdy, reusable gloves should be washed and sanitized between tasks.