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By Elena Kadvany

Should bartenders wear gloves?

Uploaded: Jan 27, 2014

An amendment to a California retail food safety law introduced at the beginning of this year bans restaurant workers from handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands. This means wearing gloves to place garnishes, put together a sandwich, make sushi rolls ? you name it.

Though the initial focus and fallout from this change focused on how AB1252 will affect chefs, there's another victim here: bartenders.

A Jan. 14 Los Angeles Times article about what AB1252 means for bartenders quotes Angelica Pappas, a spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association:

"Technically speaking, these rules do apply to bars. It's been a common question we've heard ... so there may be more information to come on this in guidance documents from the health inspectors."

California bartenders have rallied in response, launching a petition that asks California State Assemblyman and Committee on Health Chairman Dr. David Pan to exempt bartenders from the new law.

"We are in the midst of our country's second cocktail renaissance, and bartenders up and down the state of California are creating amazing experiences for their guests," the petition reads. "A big part of that experience is the use of fresh ingredients, both those that are mixed into the drink and the garnishes that grace the glass. These bartenders take great care to create the perfect drink, using only the freshest fruits and herbs, handling them with their skilled and freshly washed hands.

"Another element of bartending is the visual experience: today's bartenders deftly pour, stir, shake, and strain their drinks with precision, style and grace. Forcing them to wear disposable gloves will completely ruin the show."

The petition is aiming for a total 10,000 signatures, with 8,753 already as of Jan. 27.

Here is the old retail food safety law (scooped from InsideScoopSF, the San Francisco Chronicle's food blog):

"(a) Food employees shall minimize bare hand and arm contact with nonprepackaged food that is in a ready-to-eat form.

(b) Food employees shall use utensils, including scoops, forks, tongs, paper wrappers, gloves, or other implements, to assemble ready-to-eat food or to place ready-to-eat food on tableware or in other containers. However, food employees may assemble or place on tableware or in other containers ready-to-eat food in an approved food preparation area without using utensils if hands are cleaned in accordance with Section 113953.3.

And the new law:

"(a) Food employees shall wash their hands in accordance with the provisions established in Section 113953.3.

(b) Except when washing fruits and vegetables, as specified in Section 113992 or as specified in subdivisions (e) and (f), food employees shall not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands and shall use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves, or dispensing equipment.

I'm curious what others think. Do you support or oppose this new law? Any local bartenders care to chime in?