In January, AB 1252 went into effect in California, requiring food employees in contact with “ready-to-eat” food to wear gloves. From the outset, this seemingly minor change to California food safety law generated ripple effects felt throughout the state beverage industry, as the law requires bartenders and tasting room employees to wear gloves when handling edible garnishes or cheese plates. Citing inefficiency, waste and a tenuous relationship to public health, the industry went on the offensive to get the word out about the unintended consequence of the new law. The backlash to AB 1252 was not limited to the restaurant and bar industries. As reported by NPR, local health departments had a difficult time interpreting and implementing the legislation. AB 1252 provided an exemption to the glove requirement for establishments that satisfied certain health department standards. But local health bureaucracies struggled to define the criteria for the exemption process.
Now, emergency legislation known as AB 2130 has been introduced in the California legislature to effectively repeal the onerous requirement of the glove law. The new legislation would permit food employees to handle “ready-to-eat” foods with their bare hands as long as they minimize contact with the food, use an approved food preparation area and make sure their hands are cleaned in accordance with California code.
Bartenders and tasting room employees aren’t out of the woods just yet. The grace period for violations of AB 1252 ends on June 30, and offending establishments may be penalized thereafter. Unless AB 2130 goes into effect by that date, the gloves may very well have to come back on for the state beverage industry.