Disposable gloves come in a variety of colors, but this is not simply for wearer preferences. Some colors are more common in one industry than in another. Automotive technicians, for example, are fond of black nitrile gloves because the color seems suitable for their job, but the color has no bearing on the gloves' usefulness.
In other industries, however, colors serve a greater purpose. This is because of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) rules.
"HACCP provides strict oversight at each step of food production."
What is HACCP?
This regulation includes a set of guidelines to ensure that food processing occurs in a safe manner from start to finish. HACCP provides strict oversight at each step of the production process to make certain consumers get food products without physical, chemical or microbiological risks. Using scientific and logical strategies, regulators identify hazards, put controls in place to limit those hazards and conduct tests to ensure those controls are effective.
This control method came from Pillsbury microbiologist Dr. Howard E. Bauman and other researchers in 1959. The company worked with NASA under contract to develop a food that would not crumble or contain pathogens or parasites in spacecraft with the astronauts. The formal presentation of HACCP came a little over a decade later in 1971 at the National Conference on Food Protection in Denver.
Through the years, HACCP grew from three principles to seven, reaching its current framework in 1992. The seven principles include:
- Conducting hard analyses: Plants identify hazards.
- Determining control points: This principle involves identifying steps in the production cycle where plants should implement preventative measures.
- Setting critical limits: Plants determine the extent to which they must control identified hazards.
- Implementing monitoring procedures for each control point: Plants establish procedures to ensure workers implement controls at control points.
- Creating corrective actions: If monitoring reveals critical limits are not met, plants must enforce corrective actions.
- Implementing record-keeping procedures: Plants must keep record of all information relating to the aforementioned principles.
- Verifying that HACCP is working effectively: The final principle ensures a plant's HACCP plan works through inspections.
From its inception to now, HACCP has expanded to a number of industries, including canning and meat processing.
What does HACCP check?
While HACCP is a detailed process that implements numerous assessments and controls along the food processing cycle, it is not completely comprehensive. However, it does indicate food producers are taking the most extensive measures possible to ensure food safety.
The International HACCP Alliance noted the brunt of attention goes toward microbiological hazards, which require a microscope to detect and include listeria and E. coli. Chemical hazards, such as antibiotics and pesticides, are also present and feared by some consumers.
"Color coding gloves helps with HACCP compliance."
Where do disposable gloves fit in?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already requires glove use in food processing, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires HACCP for meat processing plants in the U.S. Plus, HACCP is required for seafood and juice. With these controls already in place, some may wonder what else gloves will do to further assist in compliance.
That is where the colors become important. One of the biggest issues with food safety hazards is cross contamination. If workers do not change gloves between tasks, there is risk of a transfer of microorganisms. For example, contamination occurs if workers switch from working with raw meat, which contains harmful bacteria, to handling cooked meat. The same is true of the transition between cleaning and processing fruit, respectively. To address these issues, food producers use color coding for their disposable gloves.
Another example of a HACCP principle in use is of a plant that processes both meat and seafood. Blue vinyl gloves could designate seafood products, while managers could limit translucent vinyl gloves to meat. While a seemingly small difference, the color coding can go a long way toward ensuring workers remember to change gloves when switching between tasks.
HACCP includes a wide range of checks and balances, of which gloves are only a small part. However, they are no less important than any other preventative measures because they help reduce possible food recalls and improve food quality.