The way food and drinks are handled at your favorite restaurant could soon change in a big way. A new California law prohibits bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food and drinks. It’s geared to keep consumers healthy, but it’s drawing fire from restaurant owners.
"There's no statistical difference between wearing gloves and washing your hands frequently,” said Lee Morcus, the owner of Figue Mediterranean restaurant in La Quinta. “Even if you use gloves, if you don't change them, you're going to have cross-contamination."
Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last year and it took affect in January. It means chefs must use gloves or a utensil to plate food and bartenders must do the same when putting any garnishes on drinks. "I think overall, it's probably a very good law, because it does protect the consumer,” said John Graham.
But it disrupts hand-washing routines, creates a false sense of cleanliness and tacks on another expense according to restaurant owners who want to fight the legislation. Morcus says most will probably go for latex gloves, because they’re inexpensive, but leaving a bigger footprint on the environment. "They're not biodegradable, they're going to wind up in landfills, they're going to poison the environment,” said Morcus. “They take petroleum to manufacture."
The new legislation could also cut down on efficiency, especially at sushi restaurants. Chefs at Musashi in Palm Desert wash their hands each time they touch a different fish. Gloves would only add more steps to the intricate process.
"They have to remove the gloves, they have to throw away the gloves, and they have to wear another one,” said Stella Kim, the owner of Musashi. “It's going to really slow things down for business and the customers are going to have wait even more."
With concerns like this coming in from restaurants all over the state, lawmakers say they could consider a reversal before enforcement begins in July. Local owners hope they at least take a more flexible approach to a wide-sweeping law.
"Again, I just think it's a mistake because I don't think they studied what happens in well-managed restaurants,” said Morcus.