Handle with care

Latex glove allergy problems on the rise.

By Ben Van Houten
Restaurant Business
August 1, 2000

WHILE THE BATTLE against foodborne illnesses continues to rage harder than ever, a disheartening trend is threatening to put a damper on the diligent food-safety efforts of operators across the country: a growing number of employees are having problems with latex allergies, hardly good news for an industry where latex gloves are one of the most common forms of protection against bacteria.

“This is definitely becoming a big-time problem,” says Steve Grover, VP-technical services for the National Restaurant Association. “It’s a bad allergy to have, and it’s caused death before. And there’s no doubt from the number of calls we’ve been getting that this is becoming a major problem for restaurateurs, especially as glove usage continues to rise.”

Grover says problems began last year, when the Food and Drug Administration’s new Model Food Code recommended that foodservice workers not touch foods with bare hands, instead relying on gloves and tongs, among other methods. “As a result of that, a lot of operators simply started requiring employees to wear latex gloves,” he says. “Because latex is tougher and more durable than any other kind of glove, it was a natural move for a lot of operators.” In fact, states such as Minnesota and New York now require glove use in restaurants, though not specifically latex.

Latex allergies occur when a person’s skin is exposed to proteins found in natural rubber latex, leading to a simple hand rash which could be a precursor to a much more serious allergic response. “If someone has a severe allergy, they’re going to know it,” says Grover. “This is why we want to get the word out to operators, and let them know their options.”

Grower says the NRA is recommending alternative gloves, such as vinyl or synthetic-latex gloves. “It’s easy for operators to switch to another type,” he says. “Also, if they use powder-free gloves, that reduces the risk because proteins bond to powder and cause more latex to reach the skin. Or an allergic person could even inhale powder and have a reaction that way. Just as long as everybody’s doing proper handwashing, these problems shouldn’t be happening.”

Gene Vosberg, VP of the Washington State Restaurant Association, says the issue is “certainly becoming a big factor” in his state, which has been trying to mandate glove use for a few years. “We refuse to believe gloves are the silver bullet of food safety, and this only strengthens that point,” he adds.

The NRA’s Grover says the issue has become serious enough in the industry that the FDA is now looking into it again. “We see them taking this very seriously and possibly rethinking some of their glove recommendations,” he says. “Until then, I’m sure this problem will only get bigger.”

Reprinted with permission from Restaurant Business magazine, copyright © 2000, a VNUUSA company.

Table of Contents

Latex Allergy Links — Main Menu

Latex Allergy Links Message Board

Toys & Baby Products — Manufacturers’ Phone Numbers

Latex Gloves in Food Operations PDF
Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services Sep 07 2001

Ever more complex;
Lawsuits and increasing regulation mount as argument over NR latex policies rages

Miles Moore Rubber & Plastics News Jul 30 2001

Living With Latex: Where to be alert for latex
Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital

Handle with care
Ben Van Houten Restaurant Business Aug 01 2000

Allergenic Cross-Reactivity of Latex and Foods
Greer Labs Technical Bulletin #10 Jan 05 2000

Latex Allergy: Another Real Y2K Issue
Lisa M. Jennings, RN CRRN Rehabilitation Nursing Jul/Aug 1999

Potential for Allergy to Natural Rubber Latex Gloves and other Natural Rubber Products
OSHA Technical Information Bulletin Apr 12 1999

Looking Out for Latex
Sandra A. Holmes Science and Children Feb 1999

The Vow of Silence
Marianne McAndrew Journal of Nursing Administration Feb 1999

The legal implications of latex allergy
Peter Kohn RN Jan 1999

Latex Allergy: Everyone’s Concern
Lawrence D. Duffield, DDS Journal of the Michigan Dental Association Jun 1998

Allergen Content of Latex Gloves.
A Market Surveillance Study of Medical Gloves Used in Finland in 1997

Palosuo, Turjanmaa, & Reinikka-Railo

User Facility Reporting Bulletin
selected articles FDA Fall 1997

Latex Allergy Alert
Christine Ozment Exceptional Parent Oct 1997

Latex gloves hand health workers a growing worry
Margaret Veach American Medical News Oct 13 1997

Living with Latex
Lisa Legge Nursing Minnesota Aug 1997

Research Review:
Association between latex sensitization and repeated latex exposure in children

Victoria M. Steelman RN, PhD(c), CNOR AORN Journal Jul 1997

Latex allergy: How safe are your gloves?
Kenneth K. Meyer, MD, FACS and Donald H. Beezhold, PhD
American College of Surgeons Bulletin Jul 1997

User Facility Reporting Bulletin
FDA Spring 1997

Latex allergy among staff poses major headache for hospitals
Meredith Goad Press Herald Portland, ME May 06 1997

Oregon picks up latex glove controversy
Patrick O’Neill The Oregonian Portland, OR Apr 21 1997

Facilities react to growing number of allergies to latex
Linda L. Mullen South Bend Tribune South Bend, IN Apr 13 1997

Growing number of HCW’s developing dangerous reactions to latex
Liz Kowalczyk The Patriot Ledger Quincy, MA Apr 01 1997

Shriners Hospital Stops Using Latex
Pat Cahill Springfield Union Springfield, MA Mar 07 1997

Latex Allergy and Contraception
The Contraception Report Patient Update Mar 1997

Is Latex Paint Hazardous To Latex Allergy Sufferers?
Don Groce Latex Allergy News Oct 1996

Cotton, Nylon, Lycra Spandex and Allergies
Don Groce Latex Allergy News Sep 1996

Paving, Asphalt, Tires & Latex Allergies
Don Groce Latex Allergy News Aug 1996

Special Bulletin: Latex Allergy
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Q & A: Latex Allergies
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Preguntas y Respuestas: Alergias al Látex
Asociación Americana de Alergia, Asma e Inmunología

Latex Allergy Survival Kit
Nancy Mitchell 1996

Downloadable/Printable Latex Allergy Signs
For personal, non-commercial use only

Pre-1996 FDA documents
Miscellaneous legislative and other documents

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