Gloves Can Have Negative Effects on Food Safety

A study reported in the April issue of the Journal of Food Protection revealed that levels of selected microorganisms differed on foods handled by gloved and bare hands at fast food restaurants — and not in a good way. In the study, a sampling of nearly 400 plain flour tortillas were purchased from fast food restaurants and analyzed for Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Klebsiella sp., coliform bacteria and heterotrophic plate count bacteria. About 46 percent of the samples were handled by workers wearing gloves and 52 percent had bare-hand contact.

Coliform bacteria were found in 9.6 percent of samples handled by gloved workers but only 4.4 percent of samples handled by bare hands. Although overall levels were too low for these numbers to have statistical significance, direct contact of the tortilla with the food preparation surface did not appear to affect the level of any organism tested. It was suggested the apparent failure of gloves to reduce or prevent contamination was due to a tendency of food workers to wear the same pair of gloves for extended periods and wash their hands less frequently when gloved.

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