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Controversial 'Glove Law' faces likely change

Shannan Baumann

California restaurants and bars may be in luck after a unanimous vote last week in favor of Assembly Bill 2130.

The bill is an amendment to the Retail Food Safety Bill, commonly referred to as the "Glove Law," which went into effect this January. According to Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who wrote the initial legislation and the bill in consideration, the law was intended to be a non-controversial update to the existing food safety code.

However, due to a section of the bill banning bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, it became controversial with restaurants and bars statewide. Pan said that after listening to restaurant and bar owners voice their concerns about how difficult implementing this law would be, he proposed a rollback to the specific provision. 

"It certainly would impact the businesses themselves because not only the cost of the gloves, but also the fact that we would slow down the workers, but in addition, sometimes wearing gloves can create a false sense of security," said Pan.

For some, like Chef Shaun Behrens of Luna Red, a local  San Luis Obispo restaurant, it's about all those factors plus the harmful environmental implications. 

"I actually don't promote glove use in our restaurant. I promote spoons and tongs and everything else." Behrens said that he would "hate to know" how many gloves will be used in restaurants in California and what that could do to our landfill,  if the no bare-hand contact rule remains the same.

Despite the opposition, some are still optimistic that this rule can work for California. Several states already have a similar provision in place. California, if the current bill remains law, will be one of the last states to adopt this sort of rule. 

"I don't know that we're so different than anyone else, I think we can figure it out," said Larry Fay, Environmental Health Services Director for the Santa Barbara Public Health Department.

Fay said that with "a little patience and a little understanding," California can make this law work. He noted that it is not a glove law, it's a law banning bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food. He said that there are other tactics, like using utensils and tongs, that chefs and bartenders can utilize to keep food safe. 

Currently, California is in a "grace period," allowing businesses to adjust to the new rule before it's fully enforced. AB2130 still has some crucial steps before the amendment would come into effect.