Food-safe gloves are those that are approved for foodservice.
They contain materials that are generally considered safe for use with food and food packaging.
There are many types of food-safe gloves, each with pros and cons.
This article explains everything you need to know about food-safe gloves, including the pros and cons of the various types and how to use them properly.
Types of food-safe gloves
The four types of food-safe gloves include poly, latex, vinyl, and nitrile. They are named after the material from which they are made.
Gloves that are made from neoprene — a synthetic rubber — are not designed for preparing or working with food.
However, some are heat-resistant, making them ideal if you rely on hot water to sanitize dishes in a 3-compartment sink.
Here’s what you need to know about the four types of food-safe gloves:
Polyethylene — or poly — gloves are very thin and useful for light-duty tasks such as assembling sandwiches or handling other ready-to-eat food.
They are transparent and don’t conform to the hand as well as other food-safe gloves, making them more prone to rips and tears.
But as the least expensive type of food-safe glove, they are great for operations that require frequent glove changes between tasks.
Latex gloves are made from natural rubber latex.
They are incredibly durable and provide a strong barrier against disease-causing organisms known as pathogens.
However, latex gloves contain a protein that can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.
Latex gloves can not only cause an allergic reaction in sensitive food handlers wearing the gloves but also in a sensitive person to which the food is served.
Out of caution for latex allergies, fewer foodservice operations are opting for latex gloves.
Vinyl gloves are made of a type of plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
They are a good alternative to latex gloves since they offer the same utility but are latex-free.
Vinyl gloves are also less expensive than latex and nitrile.
They may also be an ineffective barrier against bacteria and viruses, especially when compared with latex and nitrile (2).
Nitrile gloves are made from synthetic rubber.
Like latex and vinyl, nitrile gloves are highly versatile and durable.
However, they’re less elastic or flexible than latex.
They come in a variety of thicknesses and types and they are also latex-free.
Nitrile gloves are a better latex-free alternative than vinyl owing to the growing safety concerns of vinyl gloves.
There are pros and cons to the four types of food-safe gloves, which include poly, latex, vinyl, and nitrile.
Overview of approved foodservice disposable gloves
Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of each food-safe glove type.
Food-Safe Glove Type
This table provides an overview of the four food-safe glove types and the pros and cons of each.
When to change gloves
This is because even with proper hand washing, pathogens can still remain and then spread to food and food-contact surfaces
However, gloves are not magical — you must change them every time they become contaminated.
Failing to do so spreads foodborne pathogens to everything you touch and consequently makes people sick.
Here are instances in which you need to change your gloves:
- when they become ripped or torn
- when changing food preparation tasks
- when interruptions occur and you must change tasks
- after sneezing or coughing
- after touching your face or other non-sanitized surfaces
- when preparing a special order for someone with a food allergy
You also need to change your gloves every four hours after working on the same tasks since this is enough time for bacteria to grow to harmful numbers.
Wash your hands between each glove change.
Never wash or reuse gloves — they are single-use only.
Similar to your hands, you must change gloves anytime they become contaminated.
How to change gloves safely
Changing gloves may seem like a simple task, but there are best practices to follow when putting them on (donning) and taking them off (doffing).
Here are the steps to don gloves properly:
- Wash your hands, and then select the appropriately-sized gloves.
- Hold one glove by the cuff and insert all fingers of your other hand into the glove.
- Pull the cuff over your wrist until it’s properly in place (avoid blowing into or rolling the gloves to make the process easier).
- Check to make sure there are no holes or tears.
- Repeat steps 2–4 for the other hand.
When you need to take them off, follow these steps to avoid spreading pathogens that may be on the glove’s surface.
To doff gloves:
- Pinch one glove at the cuff and peel it down away from your wrist, turning it inside out.
- Hold the removed glove in your gloved hand.
- Slide two fingers under the wrist of your gloved hand without touching the outside of the glove.
- Pulling away from your body, peel off the second glove, turning it inside out with the first glove inside.
- Throw the gloves away, then wash your hands.
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Follow these steps to put on (don) and take off (doff) gloves. Don’t forget to wash your hands after removing them and between glove changes.
Alternatives to gloves
Gloves can be an effective tool when working with RTE foods to keep people safe.
But there are other barriers that you can use as well, including tongs, spatulas, deli tissue, and other serving utensils.
While gloves may be better suited for some tasks, using these alternative barriers when you can may be a safer option since many food handlers don’t change gloves when they’re supposed to.
Doing so also helps reduce the waste and costs of gloves.
Tongs, spatulas, deli tissue, and other serving utensils are alternatives to gloves and may be a safer option since most food handlers don’t change their gloves when they become contaminated.
The bottom line
The four types of food-safe gloves include poly, latex, vinyl, and nitrile.
Each type has pros and cons.
Change gloves whenever they become contaminated and wash your hands taking them off and between glove changes.
Because most food handlers see gloves as magical and don’t change them when they become contaminated, using alternative barriers like tongs and deli tissue may be a safer option while helping to reduce waste and costs.
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