Posted On: January 17, 2023

When Should Disposable Food Prep Gloves be Worn?

Did you know that an estimated 128,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized yearly due to foodborne illnesses? This can be prevented with proper food preparation and safe food handling. 

Foodborne illnesses are not to be taken lightly. Therefore, knowing when to wear and change your disposable food prep gloves is crucial. Fortunately, you can prevent spreading germs and contaminating food by properly using food handling gloves. 

FDA Approved Food Handling Gloves 

Without proper protective equipment, employees and customers run the risk of contamination. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protects public health and ensures nationwide food supply safety.

Gloves for handling food are certified under FDA Title 21 CFR Part 177, which states the glove components that comply with FDA regulations. The gloves must be made of materials commonly regarded as safe for use in food or food packaging. According to this statute, these gloves must be both sanitary and impermeable. 

Organizations employing food handlers should invest in high-quality gloves with antimicrobial properties to avoid the growth of bacteria. Additionally, using powder-free gloves helps prevent the powder's residue from being left on the food. 

The statute also permits wearing disposable gloves in food handling to keep you in compliance with health and safety laws. Disposable cooking gloves are designed for short-term use and provide excellent protection between employees’ hands and the items they touch. Although they offer "short-term" protection, depending on their thickness and the material they're made from, they can easily withstand challenging scenarios. The materials used in many disposable gloves are regarded as safe for food handling and packaging, like other FDA-approved gloves.

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When should single-use gloves be worn? 

By creating a barrier between hands and food, single-use gloves can help maintain food safety. Single-use gloves should be worn when:  

  • Handling ready-to-eat food and cooked foods 
  • Food handlers suffer an injury 
  • Carrying out a single continuous task 

The exceptions are:

  • When washing produce
  • When handling ready-to-eat ingredients for a meal that will be cooked to the correct internal temperature

To properly use your gloves, make sure to follow these rules:  

  • Change your single-use gloves every two hours when used continuously for the same task.
  • Wash your hands before wearing the gloves and changing into a new pair.
  • Don’t use gloves as a replacement for handwashing.
  • Single-use gloves must be changed and discarded when switching between tasks. 

Types of Gloves for Handling Food 

There are five types of disposable gloves for handling food, which are:  

  1. Latex gloves 
  2. Vinyl gloves
  3. Nitrile gloves 
  4. Polyethylene Gloves
  5. Neoprene Gloves

Let’s learn more about each type. 

1. Latex Gloves

Latex disposable gloves are a terrific choice if you're searching for highly versatile gloves. They are strong, durable, and made from a biodegradable rubber material that provides excellent comfort and tactile sensitivity. 

Latex gloves come in two types:

  1. Powdered 
  2. Non-powdered 

Although it does include a protein that might trigger allergic reactions in some individuals, latex material is helpful for most applications other than high-risk ones.

Please note: Some states, including Illinois and Ohio, have banned latex gloves by employees in food service establishments while preparing or handling food. Be sure to check with your state guidelines for food preparation and handling to ensure you comply.

2. Vinyl Gloves

Vinyl gloves are ideal for quick usage but not for working with hazardous materials. 

Are vinyl gloves food safe? Made for food handling, vinyl gloves are safe, comfortable, and latex-free.

Vinyl gloves can be used for: 

  • General tasks 
  • Food prep 
  • Cooking 
  • Serving 
  • Non-high-risk janitorial work 

Vinyl gloves do not stretch nor provide the same comfort as latex, but they still provide ease of tactile sensitivity. 

3. Nitrile Gloves

Nitrile food-safe gloves are similar to latex gloves and can be used for almost any task. They are arguably the most versatile gloves and are available in different thicknesses and types, which range from 3-millimeters dense food handling gloves to 6-millimeters thick industrial gloves. 

Moreover, they offer a chemical and puncture-resistant material that is more durable than latex but not as durable as neoprene. Food handling nitrile gloves provide flexible and tactile wear while fitting well to hands to give a tight, skin-like fit. 

4. Polyethylene Gloves

Poly gloves are great for delicate tasks when serving and handling food. They are light, thin disposable gloves that typically fit loose. Due to this, wearers can quickly slip hands in and out of these gloves throughout their food prep tasks without contaminating the food. Their quick and light usage makes poly gloves far from durable, but it does make them a fantastic economical disposable choice. 

5. Neoprene Gloves

Neoprene gloves are made of sturdy and durable material; therefore, they can be worn for extended periods or can even be reused. Neoprene gloves are great for heavy-duty use. These gloves protect against acids, chemicals, and other harsh substances. 

This style of glove is often used for: 

  • Dishwashing 
  • Cleaning 
  • Maintaining the kitchen 

Neoprene gloves are rarely used in the cooking or serving process. 

Best Gloves for Food Prep 

If you've ever worked in the food service industry, you'll understand the importance of having the best disposable food handling gloves to protect you and the customers. 

Choosing the best glove type for food prepping depends on various factors, such as: 

  • Protection required
  • Allergens 
  • Glove sizing 
  • Affordability 

To sum it all up: 

  • Latex, vinyl, nitrile, and polyethylene are all suitable materials for food prep gloves 
  • Neoprene gloves aren't typically used for food prep 
  • Avoid latex gloves if you have an allergy 

Latex, vinyl, and nitrile are often considered the best materials for food prep gloves in terms of composition. Due to the various cases of latex allergies, use latex with caution. 

Latex gloves

  • Are comfortable 
  • Easily slide on and off 
  • Keep hands dry 
  • Have great tactile sensitivity and puncture protection 
  • Are great for manual dexterity 

Vinyl gloves

  • Ideal for tasks that require more fingertip sensitivity and general durability 
  • The best choice for an affordable yet durable sanitary protective barrier 

Nitrile gloves

  • Highly durable 
  • Allergen friendly when latex-free and powder-free 
  • All-purpose gloves without latex materials  
  • Ideal for people with latex sensitivities 

Polyethylene gloves

  • Made of thin, but good material 
  • Ideal for those who must change gloves often and for food prep tasks 
  • Easy to use for every level of cooking 

Make sure that you purchase the powder-free type of either latex or vinyl gloves because powdered gloves provide comfort for the wearer but can cause irritation to sensitive skin. 

Considering all this information, you should be better positioned to choose the best type of disposable food glove for prepping so your customers can savor and enjoy their meals while avoiding foodborne illnesses. 

In the U.S., most states require that anyone working as a food handler must have the training and certification to handle food lawfully. Having food handling training and certification will only benefit you and your organization. To get your food handler certification, browse our courses, select your state, and sign up!

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