PORTLAND (AP) — Oregon public health officials have delayed a rule that could put many restaurant cooks in gloves when they roll sushi or assemble tacos: No bare hands on the food.
Chefs argue that gloves give cooks a false sense of sanitation. They cite studies that show glove-wearing cooks wash less frequently, and the warm, moist conditions inside gloves are a hothouse for bacteria.
The rule was supposed to be effective Sunday, but the Oregon Health Authority has decided to hold another hearing in August, meaning a delay of several months.
Gloves themselves wouldn’t be required for compliance. Tongs or tissue paper could be alternatives, but the Oregon debate has been gloves vs. hands.
Gloves aren’t foolproof, said Eric Pippert, a manager in the agency’s Foodborne Illness Prevention department, “but they do a considerable amount to prevent the fecal contamination of food.”
That would help prevent the spread of norovirus, the most common cause of food poisoning and often spread by food workers who don’t wash their hands after using the restroom, he said.
“Gloves lead to a bulletproof-vest feeling,” said Bryan Steelman, owner of the Mexican eatery Por Que No and among the restaurateurs leading the charge against the new rule. “Cooks think, ‘I have a glove on. I don’t need to wash my hands.’”
Pippert counters with a 2003 state survey in which restaurant inspectors found at least one hand-washing violation at nearly two-thirds of Oregon eateries.
Restaurateurs have also objected to the expense and, in Portland, called it ironic that they’d have to dispose of a lot of plastic gloves in a city that has recently banned plastic bags.
The measure is part of a raft of new rules that include allowing dogs on restaurant patios and adding mandatory consumer advisories for raw or undercooked foods, all designed to put Oregon in line with a federal food code adopted at least in part by more than 40 states.
The no-bare-hands rule is the only one that has raised complaints, Pippert said.