Chefs Required to Wear Gloves Under New California Law

The new law went into effect on Jan. 1 and requires chefs working with ready-to-eat foods to wear gloves

Restaurants workers in California aren’t allowed to handle ready-to-eat foods with bare hands anymore, a change one culinary veteran says could present a "huge change" and challenge for sushi chefs and other food preparers.

Changes to the California Retail Food Code that went into effect on Jan. 1 require chefs to wear single-use disposable gloves when working with prepared foods, unless a permit-holder has prior approval from a local enforcement agency.

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Restaurants and food preparers have six months to get up to code. While that extra time means the change likely isn’t on many restaurants’ radars yet, Larry Bressler, a teacher at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena and general manager of the Chefs Center of California, said California sushi shops might have a difficult time to transitioning into the new code.

“This is going to be a huge change for sushi chefs,” Bressler said.

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Bressler said dropping the bare-handed method of rolling rice into perfect mounds won’t be the same for some sushi-making veterans.

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“It becomes that much more of a challenge, that much more of a hassle,” Bressler said. “They’re going to have a very negative reaction.”

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The existing code requires employees to thoroughly wash their hands before preparing food or donning gloves to work with food. Bressler, who teaches a food safety and sanitation course, said the changes were made to protect consumers from eating foods that have been contaminated or handled improperly.

“Sometimes your hands are the best tool available, but you have to know how to use that tool safely,” Bressler said.

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Though the change might be a big deal for some chefs, Bressler doesn’t expect it will change any diner’s experience.

“The only way that it will affect their experience is if they have a pissed off sushi chef,” Bressler said.
 

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