Latex allergy and food preparation gloves

Should food prepared for someone with a latex allergy not be prepared with latex gloves?
My initial instinct was to say that it seems unlikely for latex gloves used in food preparation to trigger an allergic reaction, but then a look at two places confused me:

The Mayo Clinic’s page on Latex Allergy doesn’t mention the issue:

Someplace called the Cleveland Clinic does mention it:


Latex gloves are almost never used in food preparation. Usually those gloves are vinyl or polyethylene. Of course, I’m in no place to say whether “almost never” is something you want to chance…

Nitrile gloves seem to be all I see anymore.

Anything that is to be handled or ingested by someone with a latex allergy should not come into contact with anything latex. This includes latex gloves while preparing their food. It’s too easy for latex to “shed” particles and for some allergic people it takes only microscopic amounts to trigger a reaction. Better safe than sorry.

I use them every day in a professional kitchen. Where did you come up with that assertion?

Are you sure they’re not nitrile? Look on the package. The gloves look and feel the same as latex, but I rarely see latex around anymore.

In my experience, nitrile gloves feel distinctly different from latex ones, and since my previous job required me to select one over the other depending on what chemical(s) I was handling that day, I spent quite a bit of time wearing both versions (and trying different brands, etc). Latex gloves are still very often found in situations where a product might eventually be consumed by someone; I’ve seen latex gloves in kitchens and they are far and away the more popular choice in pharmaceutical manufacturing and laboratories since they allow for a more sensitive touch and more dexterity.

This doesn’t address the risk to people with latex allergies, but simply the fact that latex gloves are still found pretty often.

I wonder whether the small amount of particle transfer possible during food handling is significant compared to the amount of latex people are exposed to in the environment, particularly from car tires/dust?

Car tires contain latex? Huh.

Anyhow - someone with a latex allergy would, presumably, NOT be bringing latex items into their home, and thus might have significantly less exposure to such dust than average. I am aware (because my spouse has such an allergy) that you can purchase such things as latex free underwear (latex being a frequent but not mandatory part of elastic) and band-aids. Our household gloves for things like dish washing and craft projects are nitrile, not latex. And so on. I strongly suspect we have a LOT less latex dust in our home than you do.

And, like all allergies, latex allergies vary - my spouse’s isn’t that severe, so accidental exposure is more annoying than dangerous though, of course, we try to limit even the accidental stuff. That still means, given any control at all, it’s better if someone preparing his food does not use a latex glove. No need for avoidable exposure.

Wow. The Cleveland Clinic is famous worldwide as one of the best tertiary care hospitals in the world. The first heart transplant in the U.S. was performed there, as was the first face transplant and the first coronary artery bypass. When my wife was going to medical school down the road, they had a regular procession of sheiks and other rich folks from around the world through there. In other words, the Cleveland Clinic is at least as authoritative as the Mayo Clinic.

Speaking of my wife, medical school was where she first developed her latex allergy. Since then, she has gotten very sick indeed from gloves used in food prep. It is most likely to happen with food that is not cooked after being handled, such as salads. Heat can denature the proteins that cause the reaction, so cooked food is safer.

Although a lot of restaurants have switched to nitrile or vinyl, some have not. Latex gloves are still cheaper than vinyl in some places, and almost always cheaper than nitrile. There is one nearby location of nationwide chain in particular that has for some reason insisted the local health code specifies latex gloves when it does not (either a blatant falsehood or a major misunderstanding). Furthermore, most restaurant seaters/maître d’s do not know the difference between glove material. We often have to ask if we can see a box of the gloves the kitchen is using to check for ourselves. Yes, this gets annoying.

Thanks, I had never heard of the Cleveland Clinic before, and am automatically skeptical of unknown sites offering medical information on the web.

Thanks to all for your help!

I thought gloves were found to be pointless and even counter-useful in food preparation, with the real benefits coming from handwashing (except in cases of cuts on hands or whatever)? I imagined them only being used in cafeterias.

When I worked in a lab, besides the feel of the gloves being a little thicker, the nitrile ones were always BRIGHT PURPLE.

They are useless when they are not used properly. Lazy cooks will put on a pair of gloves, and leave them for hours, thinking that they don’t have to wash their hands if they wear them. That’s the same as not wearing gloves at all. But if you treat the gloves as a single use instrument, you take them off and throw them away when you are done, and they actually help prevent cross contamination. You wash your hands, and put on another pair when you need them. Handwashing, gloves and serving utensils (single use or washable) are all just solutions to the overarching problem of cross contamination. The most important thing is that you are mindful of the problem and doing everything in your power to prevent it. Unfortunately, that is beyond the comprehension of most lowly paid food service workers, so we just tell them to wash their hands and use gloves to minimize the risks.

Yes, they are latex. They say contains natural rubber latex or something similar. They have allergy warnings printed on them. I have latex-free gloves available for that reason.

Latex gloves are the best of the available options. They conform to your hand and don’t bunch up, giving you almost as much dexterity as bare hands. They insulate against extreme heat or cold, allowing you to work in very hot or very cold water. They rarely slip off when wet or when pulled away from your hands.