Andy's Rest. Scorecard: Gloves vs. No Gloves - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Andy's Rest. Scorecard: Gloves vs. No Gloves

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By Andy Wise - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS (WMC-TV) - New state regulations will soon have Tennessee restaurants stocking up on the 5-finger food barrier.

Otho Sawyer, assistant manager for the Memphis-Shelby County Health Department's Environmental Sanitation Division, said starting Jan. 1, 2012, Tennessee health codes will prohibit bare-handed contact with "ready-to-eat" foods, including fruits, vegetables and garnishes.

Sawyer said the state's current codes recommend limited bare-handed contact with food, but they do not require restaurant employees to use gloves.

"People who wear gloves have a tendency to forget they're wearing them and not wash their hands," said Sawyer.

According to health inspection records, some of the more common health code violations by restaurant workers using gloves include:

* NOT WASHING HANDS BEFORE THEY APPLY GLOVES

* NOT WASHING HANDS WHEN CHANGING GLOVES

* USING THE RESTROOM, THEN DONNING GLOVES WITHOUT WASHING HANDS

That's why when you see elite executive chefs like John Bragg of Circa (http://www.circamemphis.com/) featured as Chefs of the Week on the Scorecard, they're not wearing gloves.

Bragg said gloves sometimes foster a false sense of cleanliness and are clumsy when designing creative food presentations. He said in some restaurants, workers may absent-mindedly keep them on all shift, cross-contaminating them with raw food, cooked food, utensils and prepping surfaces.

"You can feel when your hand is clean, if it's sticky or if it has residue on it," said Bragg. "(With gloves), you lose that sense of feeling."

Because of that concern, Mike Miller, president of the Memphis Restaurant Association (http://www.memphisrestaurants.com/) said the Tennessee Hospitality Association (http://www.tnhospitality.net/) has lobbied the Tennessee health commissioner to consider an exemption for the use of gloves in the new regulations.  

"We support the model food code 100 percent except the 'bare-handed' food contact provision," said Miller, who is also the owner of Patrick's Steaks & Spirits, 4972 Park Ave. (www.patricksmemphis.net). "The requirement to wear gloves or use tongs at any point in time, particularly gloves, typically leads to more cross-contamination issues than it prevents, due to the false sense of sanitation." 

Even so, the new regulations may force some Tennessee restaurants to use gloves. Sawyer said the Tennessee General Assembly amended the regulations to align them with the rules of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Both Arkansas and Mississippi health codes already prohibit bare-handed contact with "ready-to-eat" food.

Lenny's Sub Shop franchises (http://www.lennys.com/) have always used gloves and are recognized by the industry and by health officials as some of the most proactive restaurants in the use of gloves.

Melanie Barden, general manager of Lenny's franchise at 12 S. Cooper St., said each Lenny's manager is ServSafe-certified by the National Restaurant Association (http://www.servsafe.com/index.aspx) in enforceable and accountable hand-washing procedures.

"Even when you change gloves, you've got to wash your hands," said Barden. "Even when we swap duties -- when we go from taking orders to working on the line -- you've got to wash your hands."

Barden added, "We put the gloves on so the guests are comfortable. The health and safety of our guests and employees is very important to us."

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