Lawmakers consider repealing glove rule for food handlers

Lawmakers consider repealing glove rule for food handlers
Gloves are worn to prepare sushi at Sushi Gen during their lunchtime rush hour in Los Angeles, but state lawmakers may repeal a law requiring food handlers wear gloves. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

A year after approving a law requiring restaurant workers to put on new plastic gloves each time they handle food, state lawmakers are rushing to repeal the mandate after eateries complained it is a significant burden.

The state Senate on Thursday is likely to vote on a bill to repeal the law so the governor can sign the measure before enforcement begins July 1. The law prohibits bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food starting July 1of this year for all restaurants and bars.

Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) introduced the bill approved last year and the repeal measure this year.

"We want laws that promote public health, not a deterrent for business," Pan said Wednesday. "This law definitely didn't fit like a glove, which is why I am committed to working with the restaurant community to roll back the glove law so we can move meaningful conversation on food safety."

The repeal was proposed after restaurant owners complained the law interferes with smooth operations and requires them to provide hundreds of plastic gloves to employees every shift as workers are required to put on and take off new gloves every time they move from handling food to other duties.

In addition, some gourmet chefs complain that the gloves interfere with their artistic work with the food. "They need the tactile feel of their food, especially when it comes to sushi chefs and other specialized chefs," said Matthew Martinez, a spokesman for Pan.

Those supporting a repeal of the law include Bobby Coyote, president of the Sacramento Chapter of the California Restaurants Assn. and owner of Dos Coyotes Border Café.

"The glove law currently provides a false sense of security and the end result could be that food borne illnesses are not reduced," Coyote said Wednesday. "At my restaurant the time it takes to put on gloves, take off gloves and dispose of gloves impedes the flow of quality service that our restaurants are trying to provide for our customers."

Those interested in the repeal vote can watch the state Senate session by linking to the California Channel: