- Latex Allergies: Some individuals may be allergic to latex proteins, and exposure to latex gloves can trigger allergic reactions. These reactions can range from mild skin irritation to more severe symptoms, including itching, redness, hives, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis in extreme cases. It is crucial for food handlers to be aware of this risk and use alternative glove materials if they or their coworkers have latex allergies.
- Cross-Contamination: Gloves, whether latex or not, can create a false sense of security in food handling. If gloves are not changed and hands are not washed properly between handling different food items or after touching non-food surfaces, there is a risk of cross-contamination. This can lead to the transfer of harmful bacteria and other pathogens between foods, potentially causing foodborne illnesses.
- Proper Glove Usage: Even if latex gloves are not an issue due to allergies, it is essential to use gloves appropriately. Gloves should be used as part of good hand hygiene practices, not as a substitute for handwashing. Hands should be washed thoroughly before putting on gloves and immediately after removing them to prevent the spread of contamination.
- Permeability: Latex gloves, like other disposable gloves, are not impermeable. They can develop tiny holes or tears during use, which may not be visible to the wearer. These micro-perforations can allow bacteria or other contaminants to pass through, making proper handwashing essential after glove removal.
Due to the potential risks associated with latex allergies and the potential for cross-contamination, many food establishments have transitioned to using alternative glove materials like nitrile or vinyl gloves. Nitrile gloves, in particular, have become popular in the food industry as they provide similar dexterity and barrier protection as latex gloves without the risk of latex allergies.
Regardless of the glove material used, proper hand hygiene practices, including regular handwashing, should always be emphasized in the food industry to maintain food safety and minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.