The Right Gloves for the Job: Part II Food Processing

Workers in the food processing industry should be required to wear appropriate disposable food processing gloves to protect consumers who eat the foods they handle.

Why You Need the Right Food Processing Gloves

Workers come in contact with a variety of foods, which can carry bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses such as listeria and salmonella. There are also bacteria that are transferred from humans to food as a result of poor hygiene, such as E.coli, hepatitis A and staphylococcus. Disposable gloves can serve as a barrier between workers hands and these bacteria to lessen the chance of transmission to consumers.

Listeria, for example, is found in soil and water and can be present in uncooked meats and vegetables. Food processing plant workers who do not wear disposable gloves can contaminate their hands if they come into contact with a Listeria-infected food product, thereby leading to cross contamination of other foods they handle. This can result in widespread transmission of Listeria throughout the facility. Stop the spread of unwanted contaminants with the proper food processing gloves.

Additionally, it is not easy for employers to help monitor how well employees wash their hands. However, they can implement a glove program to prevent contamination and employee illnesses from being transmitted to food products. Not only does donning gloves aid in preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses, but it is also mandated by certain government regulations.

 “FDA food contact rules regarding disposable gloves are in place to protect workers in the food processing industry and consumers.  Antimicrobial vinyl gloves prevent the growth of microorganisms by disrupting cell walls."

 
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Regulations that mandate protective clothing 

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has several rules regarding the necessity of gloves for food contact. These rules are in place to protect workers in the food processing industry and consumers.

Here are some the FDA’s Food Code provisions regarding glove usage:

  • Workers must minimize bare hand and arm contact with exposed food that is not ready to eat.
  • Gloves or utensils such as tongs and spatulas must be used for contact with exposed, ready-to-eat foods except when washing fruits and vegetables.
  • Gloves can be used for a single task and must be discarded when workers switch to a new task, the gloves become soiled or the task is interrupted.

The FDA also requires all food processing employees wash their hands. This step can reduce the chance of contamination because it prevents pathogens and other hazardous materials from touching the inside of the glove – one of many best practices for donning gloves.

These regulations make it clear, food processing workers are required to don gloves in certain cases, but which glove is most common in this industry?

Polyvinyl chloride gloves in the food processing industry
Workers who handle food often wear vinyl gloves which are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or simply vinyl, gloves. These are among the least expensive types of gloves and conform to the hand more loosely than nitrile or latex.

One key aspect of vinyl gloves is they are not as durable as other disposable glove materials. While this characteristic may be a detriment for gloves used in other industries where long-lasting puncture and tear resistance over time are important, vinyl gloves’ durability is suitable for food industry standards. This is particularly true in applications that require frequent glove changes.  Another option is blue vinyl gloves. The blue material is easier to find should a piece of the gloves become lost in a food product.

A recent advancement is the development of antimicrobial vinyl gloves that provide additional protection built into the glove material. These gloves prevent the growth of microorganisms by disrupting cell walls. Their antimicrobial and antifungal properties are mixed into the glove material rather than sprayed on so the additional protection cannot be rubbed or washed away.

If food processing employees are handling raw meat at one moment and then need to handle raw vegetables, they need to change their gloves, per the FDA regulations, to avoid cross contamination. In cases where workers need to change gloves often, low-cost vinyl gloves are a great food processing gloves option. 

Talk to an AMMEX representative to find the right gloves for your job.