Editor’s note: Since January 1st, California’s Retail Food Code prohibits bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. The new requirement makes the use of gloves or utensils mandatory whenever ready-to-eat foods are handled.

I firmly oppose the new glove law. I do not believe it makes sense, it’s impractical and it truly will not enable the food to be more wholesome and safe. I am not stating this because I am a businessperson resisting new laws and regulations. Rather, I believe, based on my decades of experience in the restaurant business, that this glove law adds regulation that won’t make any difference. Laws don’t improve safety. Food handling practices correctly implemented increase food safety.

Gloves versus safe food handling: The primary issue surrounding the glove law is food safety. If a restaurant does not practice safe food handling, gloves will not make the food any safer. I believe the focus should be on ensuring that restaurants consistently practice and perfect correct food handling. The focus should not be on legislation and other new laws and bureaucracy that require gloves and the increased burden and public cost of supervision and enforcement.

All food-handling employees are required by law to undergo serious food handling training and testing. Restaurants need to enforce these practices because they are state mandated. In our restaurant group, we actually provide extra, ongoing training as part of our normal business practice.

Although I am opposed to the new glove law, we are strongly committed to food safety. There is no one more committed to wholesome food, food safety and nutrition than our staff in our restaurants, which include Figue Mediterranean and the Kaiser Restaurant Group.
I believe that food safety and healthfulness start with our commitment to the premium ingredients we source. Our company pays huge premiums to procure and source the absolutely best products money can buy. We use ingredients that are organic, farm to table, hormone and antibiotic free, wild and sustainable, plus an entire host of other quality factors too numerous to mention. Why? Because we simply want to procure, produce and serve the highest quality food possible.

Food that is at its peak of ripeness, freshness and flavor is also food that is at its nutritional peak. That last thing we would ever do is compromise the integrity of our food.  When integrity and quality are compromised, costs increase while guest satisfaction decreases; a bad recipe indeed.

Restaurants should be focusing on the quality of their food products first, and then making sure the food is handled safely; Wearing gloves won’t matter if food service employees don’t store food properly; don’t use clean kitchen tools and equipment; come to work sick and cough, sneeze and breathe on the food; do not enforce sanitation and hygiene standards; and don’t wash their hands frequently, whether or not they use gloves. I believe the law requires staff to change gloves and wash their hands as often as they currently wash their hands.

Most foodservice operations will purchase latex gloves because they are inexpensive, but they are not biodegradable and recyclable. Since the foodservice industry is so large, the cumulative effect will be to have millions of used latex gloves in our landfills. Latex allergies are commonplace and the powder used on gloves will also migrate into the food, thus impacting quality and taste.

If we truly want to serve safer food, let’s start with product sourcing practices and then make sure that our local and state governments enforce the existing food safety practices laws, which are comprehensive and truly do make sense.  

Send all responses to this commentary to editor-in-chief Michael Sanson at mike.sanson@penton.com.

Lee Morcus is the c.e.o. of the Kaiser Restaurant Group and Figue Mediterranean in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Carmel and La Quinta, CA.