Food service workers wearing gloves - evidence of benefit?

Anyone aware of any good evidence that wearing gloves by food service workers is beneficial vis a vis protecting customers from foodborne illness?

I dunno, but I’ll bet it helps protect their employers from lawsuits! (due diligence, etc.)

Well, here’s what the New York State Department of Health says about it:

The site says the wearing of gloves is not mandatory, although the touching of food with bare hands is prohibited. So you either use tongs or other tools, or wear gloves, or both.

My organic supermarket got rid of the plastic gloves at the meat and cheese section, and the Bistro section, some time ago. They cited a study that using gloves had the same or higher rate of bacteria as using hands and washing them regularly. Apparently, the gloves weren’t swapped enough or something.

The meat and cheese section don’t have to handle money, since they only print the amount, and hand the paper bag over, and the cashier gets the money. But in the Bistro, people have to handle money, and that’s a source for contamination. So they wash hands.

When I last took the food-handlers permit test, they said that the spread of hepatitis had gone way down in our state since gloves were made mandatory. I can’t find any cites for it, though. Having worked in restaurants makes me very glad for the rule, as I can tell you stories that will curl your hair.

If you don’t doubt that gloves help prevent spread of disease in hospitals and clinics, you can see how it is just as likely to help in food service. People are contagious before they are symptomatic in many cases, and people come to work with colds regularly.

I do doubt it until it is supported by evidence. Sugery is one thing, but as far as daily patient contact, handwashing has been shown to make a difference, but gloves? Don’t know. I’d wager the same is true for handling food.

I would like to see the cites, if you can find them. I did a search. Found plenty that said gloves are “reccomended”, but no evidence that they actually do anything beneficial.

I assume the logic of the OP is whether it makes a difference given that we assume I am a fast food worker with a head cold who came to work anyway. Presumably I am picking up a tissue with my (gloved) hand, blowing my nose, then making your sandwich. The alternative of no glove is presumably no better.

I watched a line cook in a diner pick up a patty of raw beef to put on a grill with his gloved hand, and with that same gloved hand pick up the roll to put the cooked burger on.

I’ve also seen workers wipe their hair, heads, exchange money and pick things off the floor etc with gloved hands and keep prepping food.

I think the intent is good, the practice, poor.

I love watching food workers make me a sandwich, handle my money and give me change, and then go make another sandwich, all while wearing the same gloves…

If they don’t change the gloves after touching each thing (or coughing and sneezing into them) they don’t do anything. Except keep stuff from coming in contact with oozing sores on the hands. Or protecting the hands from stuff outside the gloves

There’s that. But I also wonder about the benefit of “properly” using gloves vs. your average food service worker practicing reasonable hand cleanliness.

And since the glove wearing can go through with no evicence, I will offer my own unsubstantiated contention that glove wearing is worse. When you handle raw chicken with your bare hands or sneeze on your hands, etc, they get all schmutzy and you are motivated to wash, or at least wipe. Wearing gloves short circuits that natural engine of basic self interested hygiene. Then all you’re left with is the dictums, teachings, and expectations of conscientiousness, which were there for the gloveless already. (Not to mention that people who don’t practice reasonable hand cleanliness are also not likely to use gloves properly anyway. Evidence? As Sarah said to Katie: “I’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring them to you”!)

What’s more, since it’s now our moral duty to “reduce, reuse, recycle”, every time a food service worker is supposed to change gloves - which, as JillCat said, is “after touching each thing”- he or she is forced to do the moral calculus of weighing the fate of polar bear cubs against the possiblity of giving some poor schmo food poisoning. And polar bear cubs are soooooooooo cute!

Maybe I should tip more.

There’re differences, but in general poor glove habits would tend to suggest poor washing habits as well.

I don’t generally see people walking around wearing the same pair of gloves. Going from one food-related task to another, sure, but not putting on gloves to make food, clean toilets, then make more food. Highest comfort is at the fast food counter (e.g., Subway), where the server grabs a new pair of gloves out of the box before making the food.

I know the OP asked about facts, but as a folklorist what I have seen is clear evidence of magical thinking. “Using a sanitary pair of gloves when handling food makes things safer than doing nothing” is a fact. “Gloves make things safer” is a folk belief: part fact, part falsehood. It’s pretty easy to slide from the former to the latter. When the server is wearing the same gloves to make food and handle the money, the plastic gloves are either being used as a talisman to keep away bad things, or the employee is poorly trained, or lazy, or some combination.

The benefit of gloves over hand-washing is that you can benefit from your customers’ participation in the folk belief: they see gloves, they think safe, they are happy. Actual safety need not apply.

It’s a very human tendency to substitute an easy routine (wearing gloves) for a context-dependent routine (washing hands thoroughly / changing gloves). Whether they are more or less effective is going to depend more on the employees’ procedure; where they are perceived to be more or less effective is going to depend on the customers’ observations and beliefs, and most places have the hand-washing station out of sight.

Right; *highest comfort *<> clean.

But despite the scientific “consensus” that cooties don’t exist, they’re there.

And though gloves could lead to the unintended consequence of more cooties (worker thinks gloves are magic so doesn’t change them between tasks), that is a result of poor training and policies—such an environment is likely to have similar problems with hand washing. But a well-enforced and structured policy (e.g., take a new pair of gloves before you touch food) should decrease the number of hand-to-food contamination pathways.

This relies on the assumptions that workers are more prone to put on a pair of gloves than repeatedly wash their hands (easier, more comfortable) and that gloves are relatively impermeable to pathogens (even with relatively improper put-on techniques they are more effective than cursory hand-washing).

Why not recite some kind of antimicrobial incantation? Or where a button that says “Salmonella Free Zone”? The customers could see/hear that, and even participate. It would be cheaper and better for the environment.

I like your characterization of “folk belief: part fact, part falsehood” - as opposed to just plain stoopid, like an incantation. But without any actual evidence that wearing gloves makes a positive difference, the fact fraction is pretty slim, and it seems more like just plain stoopid.

There seem to be a lot of those kind of magical thinking folk beliefs bandied about. Like recyling. And Sarah Palin.

But would it result in fewer people getting sick, which is what we are concerned about? And if it would, than that should be demonstrable.

Here’s something I don’t get: You go to the donut shop, and they handle the donuts with a piece of wax paper as they’re putting them in the bag. Then they put the piece of wax paper in the bag with your donuts.

I haven’t seen that in ages. Now they throw the tissue paper out.

To answer the first question: there’s a suspension of critical thinking involved in folk beliefs, like the suspension of disbelief in literature / film. Something that appears silly on the surface breaks that suspension. Something that appears sensible on the surface does not.

Well, I’ve been using that bit for about 15 years now. Maybe the right person heard it and got the procedure changed.