California chefs and bartenders have gotten some traction in their fight against a new state law banning all bare-handed handling of ready-to-eat food. Sure, it may have taken several weeks for a dissenting bartender’s Change.org petition to nab 11,000 signatures and attract the attention of the state assemblyman who chairs the Health Committee, but there’s now a bill for repeal on the table, and it’s up for discussion starting today.
State Assemblyman Richard Pan argues that the potential reform is more about the state of the kitchen and less about the state of the germs lingering on the staff’s hands. “It’s not about whether you wear gloves or not,” he tells The Wall Street Journal. “It’s about how clean the surfaces (touching food) are. We need to have the conversation go back to, ‘This is about food safety.’”
It’s worth noting that the pushback to the law, which, as foodservice regulations go nationwide, is hardly draconian, isn’t from fast-food and fast-casual chains, which typically have corporate policies prohibiting bare-hand contact anyway and generally fare better on inspections. For the most part, criticism this time around has come from higher-end establishments: the ones hand-rolling expensive sushi made with tuna belly, or the places that argue “the smell of latex and powder” risk befouling the nuanced flavor of a $17 cocktail. Those arguments, as it happens, take a somewhat less-than-scientific approach to food safety. As one Sacramento restaurateur argues, “If people get sick at my restaurant, they are going to stop coming. You have got to give restaurants some trust.”