If you work in the food service industry, maybe as an operative or owner of an outlet, or if you’re a regular customer at your local deli, you’ll have become familiar with the sight of single-use gloves.

These disposable gloves provide staff and customers with a lot of reassurance because it’s a sign that the food is being handled carefully and with biological security in mind.

Sushi chef wearing disposable gloves

It does have to be said, however, that all the regular rules of food safety and hygiene still apply. Staff and servers still have to wash their hands before donning the gloves; these gloves are an extra layer (literally) of security, not a substitution for good old soap and water.

The gloves are mainly for the protection of customers

It’s especially important that ready-to-eat food isn’t touched by bare hands as it probably won’t be heated before it’s eaten, so there’s less chance of killing off any bacteria that have been transferred onto it.

By taking the appropriate measures, staff minimise the risk of contaminating food or transferring bacteria or viruses onto the food that they’re about to serve to customers. While the staff themselves appreciate this extra safety precaution, as it also helps to protect them, they have to remember that it’s in place to protect customers first and foremost.

Single-use gloves don’t last for ever

As the name suggests, single-use gloves are made for just one session of wearing, after which they should be disposed of. The longer each pair of gloves is worn, the less effective it becomes as a barrier. If an operative is engaged in the same sort of task – chopping vegetables, for example – then he or she should change to fresh gloves at least every two hours. This is because tiny punctures can develop in the glove, or the worker can touch another surface without realising.

The gloves should also be changed if the worker is switching to another type of task, is going on a break, or has to visit the bathroom. They should certainly be changed if visible breaks or tears develop.

Now wash your hands!

There is, as said before, no substitute for hand-washing. Washing hands kills and physically removes bacteria and viruses from the surface of the hands. This is why workers should wash their hands immediately before putting on a fresh pair of gloves and immediately after taking them off, especially if they’re about to change to another task.

Wash hands

It’s important for workers to remember how to use disposable gloves properly if everyone is to benefit from their protection. For the most part, appropriate use means knowing when to change them.

When to change to a fresh pair of gloves

So, to recap, single-use gloves should be discarded as soon as they become visibly soiled or torn. If the worker is performing the same task, then, whether the gloves are visibly damaged or not, he or she should switch to a fresh pair at least every two hours.

It’s also important to don fresh gloves when moving onto another food group or another task.

Fresh gloves are especially vital after handling raw meat, poultry or fish; they’re also essential if the worker is moving from preparing food to handling ready-to-eat food.

Happy hygiene!