Safety of gloves vs. bare-hand use in food handling

Updated June 19, 2018

It may seem obvious that wearing gloves when handling food you plan on serving to people is more sanitary than using your bare hands. In fact, this is only partly true. According to Michael Doom, a registered environmental health specialist, good hygiene techniques are the key. In fact, he said that whenever he inspected a facility where food handlers wore gloves, he would pay special attention to how people used the gloves.


If gloves are properly used, they can certainly prevent food contamination, thereby lessening food-poisoning outbreaks. Hands carry microorganisms that contain food poisoning pathogens as well as cold and flu viruses, according to Doom. Gloves provide a barrier to those germs. They can also protect against dirty fingernails or rings coming off in the food. In addition, if the food handler has a cut, sore or rash on his or her hands or fingers, then wearing gloves is mandatory.


If wearing gloves replaces washing hands, the gloves can become just as dirty as unwashed hands. Doom explained that when people work with food using their bare hands, they immediately notice when juices get on their hands and will most likely wash their hands before continuing with their next task. This is not necessarily the case when people are wearing gloves. They may not realise it is time to wash their hands. The gloves provide a false sense of cleanliness. Food handlers need to wash or change their gloves as frequently as they would wash their hands in order to achieve any benefits.


Food preparers should never touch food with their bare hands that is already cooked and ready to serve. When assembling ready-to-eat food, servers should wear gloves or use utensils such as tongs.


When storing gloves for reuse after removal, the food handler must make sure he or she does not contaminate the gloves, according to the California Department of Public Health. A food handler cannot place gloves in a pocket, on the floor, in a waistband or belt, on a dirty counter or cutting board, or in a hat.

Expert Insight

Unfortunately, the potential for contaminating food is great. Bacteria from infected employees can transfer from their nose or mouth to their hands and then to your food, according to the California Department of Public Health. From lack of hand washing after using the bathroom to cross-contamination from raw to cooked foods, food servers can unknowingly contaminate your food. According to Doom, if you notice that food handlers are wearing gloves and changing them often, this establishment practices good sanitary measures.

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About the Author

Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.