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September Cartoon: Food Workers — Why and When to Change Your Gloves
Illustration of  restaurant worker wearing contaminated gloves

Avoiding bare-hand contact with food is crucial to food safety! Bare-hand contact with food, especially ready-to-eat foods like salads and sandwiches, can easily transfer harmful pathogens to the food, causing the customers you serve to become sick. Using single-use gloves or utensils, like tongs or deli tissue, can help prevent unnecessary contact with the foods you prepare and serve.

When to Use Gloves

Gloves should be worn whenever working with food, especially food items that are ready–to-eat or will not be cooked. Single-use gloves should be used once and never re-worn after use. Always wash your hands prior to putting on clean gloves. If you do not, you could easily contaminate your gloves while putting them on, resulting in contaminated food. When putting on a clean pair of gloves, be careful to only touch the bottom of the glove. That way, the outside of the glove will remain clean.

If you wear artificial nails or nail polish, always wear single-use gloves when working with food. If the gloves become ripped or torn, throw them away. Then wash your hands before donning a new pair of gloves. Taking these steps will ensure the nail polish or artificial nails do not chip off into the food you are preparing!

You should also wear gloves if you are serving food without utensils, such as deli tissue or tongs. Having a barrier between your hands and food is crucial to preventing cross-contamination.

When to Change Gloves

Put on new gloves when starting a new shift or after coming back from a break. Also, change your gloves if they become visibly dirty or torn. Change your gloves when switching tasks, such as switching from working with raw meat to ready-to-eat foods. You should also change gloves after taking out the garbage or using the cash register.

In addition, you should wash your hands and change your gloves at least every 4 hours of continuous use. After that amount of time, pathogens can grow to harmful levels and contaminate your food. At the same time, you should also change or wash your equipment, like cutting board and knife.

As a general rule, you should change your gloves whenever you feel like they need to be changed. If you are questioning whether your gloves are still clean, err on the side of caution. Wash your hands and put on clean gloves. Taking the extra time to wash and change gloves will help ensure the food you serve is safe to eat.

For more information about avoiding bare-hand contact with food and handling food safely, visit

— Janilyn Hutchings

Download/print cartoon: Contaminated Gloves

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