Author(s): Lynch RA, Phillips ML, Elledge BL, Hanumanthaiah S, Boatright DT
A study was conducted to determine whether the levels of selected microorganisms differed on foods handled by gloved and bare hands at fast food restaurants. Three hundred seventy-one plain flour tortillas were purchased from fast food restaurants and analyzed for Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella sp., coliform bacteria, and heterotrophic plate count bacteria. Approximately 46% of the samples were handled by workers wearing gloves compared with 52% of samples with bare hand contact. Coliform bacteria were found in 9.6% of samples handled by gloved workers and 4.4% of samples handled by bare hands, although this difference was not statistically significant. The distribution of heterotrophic plate count bacteria, a general measure of hygiene, was also higher in samples handled by gloved workers in one restaurant chain. The presence of E. coli, Klebsiella sp., and S. aureus was detected in one, two, and eight samples, respectively, and there were no significant differences between samples handled by gloved or bare hands. Neither direct contact of the tortilla with the food preparation surface nor gender of the worker affected the level of any organism tested. The observed tendency of food workers to wear the same pair of gloves for extended periods and complacency might account for the apparent failure of gloves to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. The results further suggest that glove use might be counterproductive because workers might wash their hands less frequently when gloved.