The right gloves and best practices can reduce or increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission
The significant outbreaks of COVID-19 at food processing facilities and among foodservice workers has been attributed to person-to-person transmission, exacerbated by the close working environment.
As a result, the implementation and promotion of improved personal hygiene practices for all workers has become a priority at food facilities and restaurant kitchens, especially the use of effective glove management and personal protective equipment (PPE). Glove selection and usage is an increasingly important consideration for restauranteurs dealing with the continual challenges of working during the pandemic.
Single-use gloves do play an integral role in food safety programs to prevent cross-contamination, while providing the wearer with barrier protection against food and pathogens. However, not all gloves are effective barriers to pathogens and some can be a potential food safety risk to both employees and customers. The following are six essential factors for the restaurant and hospitality industry to consider when purchasing gloves, to help guard against person-to-person COVID-19 transmission, and other associated issues:
Select the Best Glove Type
A variety of glove types are available for food handling, each providing varying degrees of barrier protection. Vinyl gloves are the most commonly used in food handling because of their cheap price point but have limited durability. They can rip and puncture easily compared to nitrile, increasing the risk of bacterial and viral cross-contamination. Good quality polyethylene (PE) gloves are an inexpensive food handling glove when frequent glove changes are required. However, they’re recommended to be used for only one to two minutes, for light food handling and preparation only.
Price alone should not be the only determinant for your glove selection. Providing your employees with a quality nitrile glove to prevent pathogen transmission may not increase your overall glove costs per month, and will better protect against viral cross-contamination.
Purchase from a Reputable Supplier
The pandemic has created a sudden increase in PPE suppliers, a few of which have no prior knowledge of products, manufacturing sources or quality standards. Reject quality gloves are flooding the market causing both food safety risks, and risks to glove wearers.
Restaurant owners should always partner with a reputable supplier utilizing known quality control systems and in-person manufacturing audits. This is to ensure product quality and consistency, and to enhance your food safety programs.
Review Glove Performance Qualities
Glove quality is determined by glove type (as highlighted above), the quality of raw materials and processes used in manufacturing. These factors affect glove strength and durability, as well as food safety performance. Food grade gloves are not required to be tested for pinhole defects (no Acceptable Quality Limit (AQL) testing requirements) meaning they may have unknown amounts of glove defects per box. These pin holes are too small to be noticed, but large enough to allow the passage of microorganisms—including viruses.
Due diligence in glove selection is necessary before purchasing. Knowledge of a glove’s AQL is essential in determining their level of food safety—the lower the number, the greater the barrier protection for the wearer and customers.
Develop Dispensing and Handwashing Best Practices
When handling food, cross-contamination must be avoided. Gloves must not be stored outside of their box, and any that spill onto surfaces or the floor must be discarded.
Washing hands prior to donning gloves is recommended. Also, after removing gloves and disposing safely, hands must be washed again before touching surfaces. Developing systems for easy dispensing beside or near hand washing facilities will help employees avoid cross-contamination risk.
Glove Wearing and Removal
It’s essential to put gloves on and take them off correctly to reduce contamination risks. One must not remove gloves near or over food or clean surfaces. Additionally, fingernail length must be kept below the finger and jewelry must be removed to minimize glove rips.
Avoid Coronavirus Waste
“Coronavirus Waste” is impacting our global environment, as the increase in PPE usage combined with the poor-quality gloves flood the market. Poor-quality gloves rip easily and may even be defective before use. Both scenarios increase usage and corresponding waste. Choosing a quality glove can reduce usage by up to 30 percent, reducing your overall impact.
The false economy of cheap gloves can affect both food safety and business risk, especially in the current climate, as effective protection against viruses and bacteria is of utmost importance. Restaurant owners shouldn’t put employees, customers and their livelihoods at risk by cutting corners.