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Seeing Someone Touch Your Food

I went to a cheese store and while getting out my credit card to pay, I saw the counter person holding and handling the unwrapped cheese without gloves or a tissue. Her hands were all over the cheese.

I know I'm getting a little nuts, but would this bother you?

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  1. Having grown up in a big family and having children myself this would not bother me. We always had our fingers in everything.
    That being said, I can see how it would bother some.
    Then again, the food handlers put on gloves then put their hand down on the counter, touch a bakery box, handle money etc..
    The only time I ever had an issue is when a deli worker made my sammich wearing gloves, sneezed into her hands and then wrapped my sammich. I made a complaint to the manager and left. I guess we all have our limits.

    1. I think it all depends on what I suspect they 'touched' beforehand.

      1. I have a phobia about that, with or without gloves. I know that behind the wall in a restaurant or grocery or whatever people are touching my food, I just don't want to see it.

        If the item is wrapped or packaged or comes out of the kitchen plated then I have no problem with it.

        Totally irrational but what can you do.

        1. Not a germophobe by any stretch of the imagination, but I DO believe strongly in proper food handling hygeine. Gloves, hairnets (I despise TV chefs with long hair just dangiing it over the food)...all seem to be a thing of the past. I agree that it IS an issue, and it is often blatantly ignored by food "professionals."

          4 Replies
          1. re: njmarshall55

            Not to mention the sweat dripping off the end of their nose and into the food.

            1. re: mucho gordo

              The hands don't bother me much, the sweat does.

              1. re: Quine

                +1. I'd rather have somebody's clean hands on my food than somebody's latex gloves, especially if they've been powdered. Yuck. Hands are historically wonderful. Keep them clean and you can handle my food without any complaint from me. Just don't pick your nose or teeth, okay?

                1. re: Quine

                  But sweat is different. Don't care for it on my food.

            2. I'm not overly paranoid about such things, and I'm certainly not nuts, but in the situation you describe, i would have told the clerk to start over....with gloves, cabinet wax etc.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Uncle Bob

                When I saw her do that I said, "you aren't suppose to touch the cheese without gloves or using a piece of wax." Her response was, "we don't wear gloves here".

                1. re: DaisyM

                  My response would have been "then I don't shop here". I would have left and followed up with a manager to express my concerns.

                  1. re: DaisyM

                    It may well be state mandated that gloves must be worn, you can Google that.

                    But no matter what anyone else says here, and I will bet there will be *horror!!!* abounding, it's all in how you feel about it, that matters.

                2. It bothers me. If you touch food you should be wearing "clean" gloves. Period.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Sydneyeats

                    Must be pretty hard to find a decent restaurant as Ive never worked in a kitchen where people wore gloves even a fraction of all the times they touched the food!

                  2. I figure if I can touch my own food someone else can too, especially if they've got the same access to a hand-washing sink as I have. However, in a commercial establishment this is a violation of health ordinances, and a casual disregard of those makes me wonder what else they're ignoring. It's a kind of "broken windows" issue, a sign of either ignorance or a scofflaw mentality. That bothers me a lot more than the absurd notion that someone else's cooties are necessarily nastier than mine.

                    1. It would not bother me at all unless I had seen him touching other things that were obviously dirty. This whole idea that if someone is wearing gloves those gloves stay "magically clean" cracks me up. Unless you see the person pull on the gloves, you have no idea what they were doing with those gloved hands right before you walked in. (I was at the deli in my local grocery once and one of the guys was wiping down the counters etc with a damp cloth. When I walked up, he put down the cloth and said "what would you like." I gave my order and then asked him to change gloves when I realized he was going to go from cleaning to cutting salami without changing gloves.)

                      1. I recommend that you never order something akin to a chili dog in RI that is called a "New York System" hot wiener (odd name but that's what it's called. Traditionally, the maker takes the steamed buns (the kind that are slit on the top not the side), smears the inside with yellow mustard, tucks a hot dog into each one and then lines them up on his forearm to spoon on the ground meat sauce, chopped onions and sprinkle of celery salt after which they are wrapped in paper and the ends twisted. If you do it without the forearm action, they just don't taste the same. (They really do this.)

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: escondido123

                          Wow I lived in MA for 15 years, all of it, within anywhere from 5 miles to 10 miles from RI and never saw this. One town in MA where I lived, to get from one side of it to the other, you had to cross the RI state line! And you betcha there was a tavern on that RI property! 18 in RI, 21 in MA. at that time.

                          1. re: Quine

                            There were never served in a tavern, really a diner food. Sorry you missed them, I still go for a couple any time I am in RI.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              Uhm...I was talking about a tavern that was n the RI part that one had to cross through to get to the other side of the MA town I lived in, the drinking age was only 18 in RI and 21 in MA. Not saying that was where the HD were or weren't.

                        2. I'm going to tell you something that people don't think about.

                          Gloves protect the user from knowing when their hands are dirty. When you have gloves on, you really don't have a true tactile sense about the condition of your hands. And, the boss is monitoring your glove wasting, so the cheese person is encouraged to keep the gloves on, despite cheese type, or whatever else is being touched.

                          I can't tell you how many times I've witnessed a person with gloves that has handled cash (or other items from a customer), then food, then something else. THIS is find disgusting. But the consumer is reassured by the presence of potentially filthy gloves.

                          Handling food with bare hands is only a problem if the handler doesn't wash between every transaction, and every bare-handler that I know is more aware of their hands than glove-wearers.

                          I hope that helps. Bare hands are much less the bugaboo than dirty gloves.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                            Absolutely. People can begin to think that whatever they do is clean if they're wearing gloves. I listened to a cafeteria supervisor at work talking to a new employee. The conversation went something like this- "...and then after you take out the trash to the dumpster you have to change gloves." "Why" " Because you had your hands on the trash." "Oh" People unused to wearing gloves get some strange ideas about hygeine and think that because they're gloved that everything they touch is clean .

                          2. I don't obsess about it unless I see them touching money or a dirty cloth or the trash. How clean are our hands when we go into a restaurant and then pull out a chair, touch the table already having opened and shut our car doors, held our purses or phones and with no qualms break some bread or hold our hamburgers.
                            I worry more about going to wash my hands and then touch the door handles on the way out and then sit back down at my table to eat.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: smartie

                              "then touch the door handles on the way out...."

                              I watched a documentary on the dirtiest parts of restaurant areas....the door handles, in the BR, were the cleanest.

                            2. I'm 51 years old. I can't for the life of me remember people in food service using gloves for at least the first 30 or so of those years. Didn't bother me then and doesn't bother me now.

                              1. Two things:

                                -Waitstaff when they handle your beverage glass at the top (the drinking part) when delivering it. reminds me of my mother when she used to carry two full glasses at once by sticking her fingers down in the liquid. Yuck.

                                -Once saw a sandwich shop manager pick up trash from the floor, then prepare sandwiches without washing his hands - AND his fingernails were really dirty. We left.

                                1. Y'all might want to stay out of European food markets and shops, then. It's pretty rare to see anybody wearing gloves....and yet somehow Europeans manage to live.

                                  There'd still be some sharp words if someone went from touching stuff on the floor or something obviously dirty -- the poultry vendors wear gloves for gutting birds -- but for the most part, no gloves.

                                  1. "It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it."
                                    ~Julia Child

                                    1. If you touch the handle on a grocery cart, or talk into your cell phone, or type on a shared computer keyboard at work you are already playing kissy face with a billion bacteria. If you then touch your eyes or mouth with your filthy fingers, you give norovirus, parainfluenza, MRSA, and e-coli a free ticket straight into your body. So I woudn't be freaking out about the cheese shop.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Samalicious

                                        Well said. Prefer to see someone wash their hands well before serving me rather than them coming up to me in gloves that who knows what they have touched. I just got over a raging case of norovirus but I think if you're to conscious you'll make yourself nutty. I think people that are to hyperaware of germs are likely to get sick more often. You have to expose yourself to some things to become immune

                                        1. re: suzigirl


                                          Now, if that same person, using not gloves, is wearing a band aid on his/her finger it may give me a little more pause for thought.

                                          1. re: latindancer

                                            Oh, heck yeah! Every time I see someone with a band aid working in food service, I wonder what it's covering. My husband is immunocompromised and every 6 months or so, gets nasty viral infections on his hands. When he's got one of those, I don't let him anywhere near the kitchen, bandaid or not!

                                            I don't mind gloveless hands that are clean, but I do mind obvious wounds.

                                          2. re: Samalicious

                                            Yep - and we humans touch our faces 3 to 6 times per MINUTE, so every little bug-a-boo we have on our hands is most likely making its way into our bodies. This is why we have immune systems (barring illness or condition compromising that). Gloved hands, I seriously could not care less about. If you're glove-less, you're likely to pay more attention to sanitation.

                                            1. This is doubly egregious because she handled your cheese. Anyone who knows cheese knows that handling it can introduce bacteria that can accelerate mold and bacteria growth on cheese that can shorten its shelf life.

                                              1. For me, it's her flippant response 'we don't wear gloves here'...imho, she's an idiot and I would be calling the owner and the Health Department..

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                                  Thank you, Beach Chick! She seemed totally perplexed to hear that she wasn't suppose to be touching the food with bare hands. The manager was standing a few feet away and said nothing. I wasn't going to get into a fight, but I won't go back to that store.

                                                  1. re: DaisyM

                                                    'Preparers must put on gloves, when touching foods that are "ready-to-eat," foods that won't be cooked to kill any potential bacteria'

                                                    1. re: Beach Chick

                                                      "Preparers must put on gloves, when touching foods that are "ready-to-eat," foods that won't be cooked to kill any potential bacteria"

                                                      So is this a Health Department requirement? In other words should I be calling the Health Department because I watched an employee, overseen by the owner, slicing gouda with bare hands?

                                                  2. re: Beach Chick

                                                    The San Diego County booklet for food handlers says this: "State law says you should minimize bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods." It does not say you "have to" wear gloves. You can read the whole booklet here: http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/deh/food/p...

                                                  3. Let's be real: gloves don't keep the food clean, they keep hands clean. And I've never seen an itamae wearing gloves, either. Bare hands in and of themselves don't bother me. Poor hygiene bothers me, but use of gloves does not by any stretch of the imagination equate with good hygiene. In my observation, there's no relationship between the two. I wouldn't be surprised, in fact, if the use of gloves resulted in poorer hygiene as a general rule.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                      1. re: DaisyM

                                                        I dunno, what about waxed paper?

                                                      2. re: ricepad

                                                        Agree with you 100% ricepad.

                                                        Unless the counter person puts on a fresh pair of gloves in front of you and then disposes of those gloves immediately after touching your food, you will NEVER know where else those gloves have been. In a perfect world, the counter person would change their gloves each and every time, but we know that is never going to happen. Like I said in an earlier post, when I was younger no one ever wore gloves in food service. Human beings seemed to have survived those times and continued to thrive.

                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                          Thanks. This point was driven home to me several years ago when I was sitting in a coffee/pastry/sandwich shop. I watched one of the kitchen staff come out of the kitchen carrying a tub of what looked like garlic spread. He put it in the microwave that was in the sitting area (really small place...it was the only microwave in the joint), and started to warm it up. Periodically, he'd open the microwave and stick his gloved finger into the spread to check the temperature. In the meantime, he was using the same gloved hands to sort and stack the newspapers left by/for customers, move the trash can over a few inches, and return tables and chairs to their original positions. Then stick the same gloved finger back into the spread. Those gloves didn't keep the spread clean, they kept his hands clean.

                                                        2. re: ricepad

                                                          Its an illusion that you are cleaner when you use gloves. I am more likely to wash my bare hands because I can feel the food on my hands. But my boyfriend thinks I am a rabid raccoon. I wash my hands alot.

                                                        3. Never bothers me, seeing people without gloves handling my food. I always assume that several bare hands have been in my food before it arrives in front of me.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: MonMauler

                                                            True. Just watch the cooking shows for confirmation!

                                                          2. I read this thread yesterday and today noticed a man wearing no gloves, cutting cheese. I suppose I'd never noticed before because this place, any many like it, are very upscale and have a good rating here in Los Angeles.
                                                            He wasn't using a tissue and his hands were all over the cheese and baguette he was preparing.
                                                            I really didn't think anything of it....there was a wash basin a few feet away and I assume he's washed his hands.

                                                            1. doesn't bother me at all. i do get bothered by people wearing gloves.

                                                              1. Here's the answer to your question. I just called my local cheese shop in the area I live and this cheese shop is well respected.
                                                                Cheese shops, given their nature, are inspected very often by their local Department of Health.
                                                                They handle the cheese, with bare hands (something I've watched them do hundreds of times) because if you watch them closely....
                                                                They handle the rind of the cheese....not the soft or hard part of the cheese.
                                                                Employees have been educated and so the response of the the woman behind the counter who said "we don't' wear gloves' is perfectly fine.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                  Touching ready to eat food with bare hands is a health code violation.

                                                                  1. re: DaisyM

                                                                    Actually, in this case with cheese, it's not.

                                                                      1. re: DaisyM

                                                                        I'm comfortable having spoken with the supervisor of my local health department food handling division.
                                                                        I highly suggest you do the same thing as you, obviously, are concerned.
                                                                        I've been told that proper hand washing along with the employee handling the rind while using the knife to cut the cheese is the proper way to do it....no gloves required.
                                                                        Now, if I can't trust my local department, who can I seriously trust?

                                                                        1. re: DaisyM

                                                                          It depends on where you are located Daisy.

                                                                          Heres a map of what states require what

                                                                      2. re: DaisyM

                                                                        Whether or not it's a health code violation depends on local codes. Federal food handling guidelines state gloves should be used when handling ready to eat food, but it's up to individual states/counties/cities to adopt those guidelines, or not. My state does not currently use the federal guidelines, and it's perfectly legal to handle ready to eat food with (clean) bare hands. The state is about to adopt the federal guidelines, and starting in September, gloves will be required.

                                                                      3. re: latindancer

                                                                        Many cheeses have edible rinds. My cheese lady will re-glove between different cheese samplings, sometimes 8-9 pair in a 20 minute visit. No problem for her. She is a pro and she knows her cheeses and my tastes exactly. And Theresa gives me free duck fat and livers....everybody should know a Theresa!

                                                                        1. re: Veggo


                                                                          Well, let's just say the cheese shop I go to....?
                                                                          It's not one I'd not trust.
                                                                          They have too much to lose.

                                                                      4. husband and i were out to dinner and asked for a box to take our food home in
                                                                        the waiter gave us the box and before you knew it, his hands were literally touching my dinner as he tried to make it fit in a sandwich box instead of a size that would fit my meal. although it was a snug fit. when we got home i gave the portion that our dog could eat to her and tossed the rest, like someone said, i have no idea where that hand has been

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                                          I like to box my own food for just that reason. Even if they box it right in front of you, they can faux pas and touch your food. And when they are really busy are they stopping to wash their hands between tables, courses, refills, taking their own bank etc... If you think to much your head will expolde.

                                                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                                                            Do you both realize that same waiter is probably touching food in the kitchen when helping to plate certain items?

                                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                              Note that the title of this thread is Seeing Someone Touch Your Food. If you don't see it, no problem!

                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                I've waited tables. I am well aware of the things that take place. I just try not to think to much.

                                                                                1. re: suzigirl

                                                                                  Just went to another cheese shop and they sliced it "hands free". They've got my business from now on.

                                                                            2. I have no problem with clean hands. I barehand food in my home kitchen all the time.

                                                                              1. This thread reminds me of an old Bazooka Joe comic:

                                                                                Sign in restaurant window: Food untouched by human hands!

                                                                                View of kitchen: Monkeys preparing the food.

                                                                                1. This post immediatly caught my eye, being that I have been in a retail environment where handling food was part of my job. At the first store I worked in, I always wore gloves and changed them when going from handling perishable seasonal items, to non-seasonal items and then took them off when handling cash. I would then grab a fresh pair of gloves and basically start the whole process over again. It was proper practice to wash our hands after handling cash and before handling seasonal items. However, on the flip side I now work at employer B and we do not wear gloves. There is no mandate on how often we must wash our hands, and washing our hands after touching grimy surfaces. I personally, therefore would never buy anything from employer B and if I were a customer at employer B and encountered a similiar situation that you did, I would have complained to the management about this. If they do nothing about it, I would call the health department in your city so that they can investigate it. This is your health we are talking about here, and even though many companies allow this type of behavior it does not make it right and it is unacceptable that your health is at risk because of their poor practices!!

                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Redstickchef

                                                                                    I am confused about the changing gloves between perishable and non-perishable because I'm not sure what those items are. But I didn't see any mention of changing gloves at any time when working with perishable items...so you kept on a single pair no matter what you were working with? Just trying to understand what you were handling.

                                                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                                                      Sorry about the confusion, I changed gloves between let's say handling fresh fruit and then handling baked goods. Then if a customer wanted to check out I would take off those gloves and throw them away. I would then put on a new pair of gloves to handle the fruit or baked goods that I was handling before that transaction.

                                                                                      1. re: Redstickchef

                                                                                        If we're getting all technical with things (not necessarily directed at you, but the thread is getting into specifics) shouldn't there be hand washing between glove changing? Wearing gloves should not preclude hand washing and other sanitary measures.

                                                                                        When I was taking some nutritional service and food science classes it was rarely a requirement to wear gloves ( Texas Regulations allow bare hands in contact with ready-to-eat foods as long as a two prong approach to hand washing is used), but we did get docked points if the instructor caught us touching our hair/ faces/trash, etc without rewashing. That certainly taught good sanitary awareness.

                                                                                        I'd rather have this type of person handle my food with clean hands than a less aware person handle my food with gloves.

                                                                                        1. re: Lixer

                                                                                          I was about 16 and working in a RV park with an enormous restaurant. When they changed hands they thought it was in the best interest of the staff take some sanitary courses. We watched what seemed to be a pointless video of a young woman working making a sandwich, soup and a burger and fries. It all looked harmless and without any rule breaking to see. Then they killed the lights and hit the black light to show IT. The place was covered in contamination from the raw beef. She washed her hands. Huh? She didn't wash them enough to kill bacteria. It looked like a Halloween glowstick was smudged everywhere. Her face,waist, her bum ( I missed that one watching the video) her food, the utensils, the sandwich garnishes, fries, plates, you name it. At the time I was a contact wearer and started practically practicing the way Doctors wash themselves. Who wants that in your eyes or your food?

                                                                                          1. re: Lixer

                                                                                            ( Texas Regulations allow bare hands in contact with ready-to-eat foods as long as a two prong approach to hand washing is used)

                                                                                            Are you sure it hasnt changed? I just re upped my servsafe in TX and was told ready to eat requires gloves now.

                                                                                            1. re: Lixer

                                                                                              I think that you make a very valid point, there should be hand washing in between glove changes. Do I think my previous employer would have enforced that practice?, No, simply because I think believe that the glove wearing was enough. My manager was the one who enforced hand-washing more so than it was company policy.

                                                                                        2. re: Redstickchef

                                                                                          It depends on the city and the retail space and the type of food being served

                                                                                          I've known about the health department, coming into a shop where I frequent, asking all employees to keep their nails VERY SHORT and to continue their practices of washing their hands and using their bare hands.
                                                                                          I'm in total agreement with this policy.

                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                            Yes, my experience with my local health dept was that I needed nails trimmed- no rings, and if there was any broken skin, then yes, bandaid AND gloves.

                                                                                            But clean hands are MUCH more sanitary than dirty gloves.

                                                                                          2. re: Redstickchef

                                                                                            Just curious Redstickchef...have you ever had anyone complain you don't wear gloves or report getting sick while with employer B?

                                                                                              1. re: suzigirl

                                                                                                I have not had anyone complain as of yet. However, the company I work for has been visited by the health board a few years ago because of a customer complaint. Unfortunately, it did not "scare" them enough to enforce the health guidelines here.

                                                                                          3. Someone who handles the money should not be handling food. It's ok if the person handling food does only that.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: GH1618

                                                                                              In many small places, there's a deli near me, there is only one person working at off hours. So when you come in and order, she puts on a clean pair of gloves, makes your sandwich and bags it, and then removes the gloves to ring up your order. New gloves go on with the next customer. What else would you want her to do?

                                                                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                That's exactly what she should do. I thought it was clear that we were discussing ungloved people.

                                                                                                An amusing twist on this is a small coffee and lunch place near me which provides disposable gloves for the food prep people. However, as is common in small places, these people sometimes opnerate the till, and it is not unusual to see them do so with their gloves left on, after which they then go back to food prep. Unclear on the concept!