California Chefs, Bartenders Fighting For The Right To Touch Food With Bare Hands

When you look at plate of food at a restaurant, what do you see? From grains of rice shaped with care to hold a piece of sushi to a towering sandwich stacked with gustatory delights, that food didn’t end up on your plate by accident — someone had to place it there by hand. And whether that hand is bare or clad in gloves is at the center of a battle in California.

While 41 states currently have a version of the legislation signed into law in California last year that bans bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat-food, chefs in the state are pushing back against the law, reports the Associated Press.

That means no touching the lime going into a cocktail or a piece of bread stacked on a sandwich without using utensils or gloves.

Although it went into effect in January, it won’t be enforced until July, giving opponents a little wiggle room to state their case, arguing among other things that it causes unnecessary waste and can restrict a chef’s craft. For example, sushi chefs who take pride in concocting the perfect fish-to-rice combination don’t want gloves to get in the way of that personal touch.

State legislators are listening, and will consider reversing the law before food inspectors arrive on the scene with their notepads and fines.

The Food and Drug Administration is a fan of the law, as it’s been recommending a no-hands model in restaurants and bars since 1993 to boost hygienic efforts. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that workers touching good was the most common way to transmit food-originated norovirus outbreaks between 2001 and 2008.

“It’s an additional barrier to help protect the food,” said the environmental health manager for the city of Pasadena and chairwoman of California’s Retail Food Safety Coalition. “You have everyday consumers who are looking for glove use.”

But chefs and restaurant owners say the gloves are more fitting at fast-food joints, and not in more upscale spots.

“If people get sick at my restaurant, they are going to stop coming,” explained one restaurateur. “You have got to give restaurants some trust.”

What do you think?

In California, chefs fight for bare-hand contact [Associated Press]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.