The gloves are off! When chefs must wear gloves

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - When viewers watch the NBC12 Restaurant Report every Thursday at 11 p.m., they often ask us why some food preparers are not wearing gloves. The Virginia Health Department requires gloves when touching some foods but not others.

The newest location of the Bill's Barbecue chain just opened a few weeks ago at 4th and Main in downtown Richmond.

"They had completely redone it, it was all freshly painted, equipment, it was right time, right place, right thing," said owner Rhoda Elliot.

Elliot, an NBC12 Hall of Fame winner for perfect health inspections, wants things done right. She tells us gloves or no gloves, food preparers must first wash their hands for about as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song. Then preparers must put on gloves, she says, when touching foods that are "ready-to-eat," foods that won't be cooked to kill any potential bacteria.

Elliot said, showing us her sandwich prep table, "Any toast or lettuce and tomato that we use on our sandwiches, or cheese that we pick up, we have to have gloves on."

Gloves cannot be re-used. And cooks must change gloves when changing foods.

"If for instance you switch from working the grill and putting raw hamburger on the grill to cook, which is perfectly fine, you cannot have the same gloves on to go over to a cold table and use any of these products, because now you have contaminated this with raw hamburger," said Elliot.

So those are the situations that call for food preparers to wear gloves. But we get asked why some cooks don't have to wear gloves. Elliot showed us the reasons why.

If a food is going to be cooked, gloves are not required.

"All the bacteria or germs that you would normally come into contact with in a kitchen are going to be cooked at 140 (degrees Fahrenheit) or above. At 140, the temperature will kill any surface bacteria," she said.

Except for hamburger, she notes, because patties are formed by hand. And food servers don't have to wear gloves if they only touch the plates, not the food. Cashiers are not required to wear gloves, but should not touch any food after handling money because it's covered with bacteria.

"Money is one of the worst things you could possibly handle. Lord only knows where the money started and finished!" Elliot said.

And those are the rules!

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.