Ask Us: What are the regulations for wearing gloves when handling food during the pandemic?

Published 6:50 pm Monday, April 18, 2022

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

SALISBURY — A reader asked about the federal, state and county laws that regulate the wearing of gloves while preparing or serving food, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rowan County Environmental Health Program Specialist Greg McNeely told the Post bare-hand contact with easy-to-eat foods was prohibited in September 2012 when North Carolina adopted the 2009 Federal Food Code. That code provides regulations for public health to ensure food is unadulterated and honestly presented when offered to the consumer. It provides for a uniform system for food offered in retail locations and in food service per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The report states food handlers cannot use bare hands, but can use gloves, utensils, deli tissues or serving equipment for ready-to-eat foods, which may include sandwiches and salads, for example.

McNeely said additional glove usage during the COVID-19 pandemic would have been guided by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as recommendations rather than requirements. The FDA states that its food code recommendations for hand-washing and glove-wearing in food service has not changed as a result of the pandemic. It adds that gloves are not a substitute for hand-washing or good hand hygiene.

It’s required for food preparers to wash their hands and the exposed portions of their arms for 20 seconds before putting on gloves and before touching food or surfaces that come into contact with food. The FDA then calls for food handlers to wash their hands immediately after removing gloves.

McNeely said the department doesn’t regulate glove-wearing requirements for bakeries as that’s under the purview of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. But for restaurants and other food services that prepare foods “from scratch,” similar guidance would apply.

“If they make foods from scratch and it is to be cooked, they would not be required to wear gloves if the foods will be cooked before being served,” McNeely said.

Once the cooked food is served, it’s recommended they use serving utensils or gloves to handle.

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About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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