Imagine walking into your favorite bar or restaurant, or sitting at a sushi bar, and seeing the chefs, cooks, expediters, bartenders, or sushi chefs wearing gloves.
If you live in California, you will.
The fear is that this regulatory ridiculousness, so common to the state, will spread.
Prepare for the D.C. Council chamber to echo once again with proclamation that “this law has been implemented in the nation’s largest jurisdiction.” The unfortunate reality is that the infamous West Coast laboratory for mandated behavior of all types often becomes a convenient “crib-sheet” for legislative proposals by trend-seeking local politicians. They may soon compete to curry favor from – or at least quiet – special interest advocacy groups through replication.
On Jan. 1, a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown went into effect that is so sudden and sweeping that state agency officials have agreed to slow implementation to a “soft roll-out” over six months. Inspectors will issue only warnings instead of fines for non-compliance during the initial period.
The law dictates that anyone handling items that have already been cooked, will not be thoroughly cooked or reheated, fresh fruits and vegetables served raw or cooked, breads and baked goods, raw sushi fish and sushi rice, and garnishes for food or beverages must wear gloves. Bartenders adding garnish to your drink must wear either gloves or grab a tong, while chefs and food handlers and presentation preparers must don gloves at all times.
Instead of current safety-proficient stringent regulations governing food handling and preparation, and glove wearing when appropriate, California is imposing new requirements that don’t make much sense.
Culinary professionals were quick to roundly criticize the new law. Washington Post food columnist, cookbook writer, culinary scribe and gay former restaurateur David Hagedorn took to Twitter last weekend to call it “an absurd law.”
While the regulatory excesses and dearth of common sense in the pre-eminent nanny state are long legendary, this new law has caused even “progressive” heads to tilt in wonderment.
A little intuitive appraisal is instructive as to why: Latex and other types of service gloves are just as susceptible to bacterial transfer as unwashed hands, if not more so. The new rule is expected to decrease food preparation safety by both generating bacterial build-up inside and outside of gloves while simultaneously discouraging the currently required and commonly observed practice of hand washing. The law will likely decrease food-handling safety and increase the presence of bacteria in prepared foods.
The better focus on effective food safety protocols and hand washing comportment will be replaced by the wearing of gloves conducive to spreading bacteria. It begs the question – what rationalizes a shifting away from hand cleaning to the wasteful consumption of hundreds of pairs of sweat-inducing gloves per typical restaurant shift?
In addition, the tactile sensitivity and control critical to certain types of chef preparation activities, notably including sushi creation, will be significantly reduced. Sushi rice will stick to gloves and the overall ability to concoct food items will be diminished. General food preparation and plating with finishing accoutrements will be reduced to something akin to packing snowballs in winter.
The common sense rules already in place and enjoying adoption are apparently never enough to satisfy business regulation activists.
When people carry anti-bacterial lotions and sanitizing wipes in purses and pockets, and douse children with ointments, it is easy to fool people into believing that an illusion of safety is better than measures producing it. We’ve become petrified of germs and have the diminished immunity to prove it.
The notion of enforcement of such regulations should prompt pause. Rules in place and in practice best address food safety efficacy. Why advocates – chasing a grandiose headline for their next news release or funding proposal – ascribe to the religion of regulation as if a deity despite the countervailing evidence is befuddling.
Let’s hope this crazy California disease doesn’t go airborne and afflict D.C.