Repeal of ban on bare-hand contact with food OK'd

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 26, 2014 at 7:16 pm •  Published: June 26, 2014
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's chefs and bartenders can resume legally handling food with their bare hands under a bill headed to the governor's desk that would repeal an unpopular regulation.

The bill, AB2130, passed its final legislative hurdle Thursday with a 32-0 vote in the state Senate.

A law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year requires restaurant employees to use gloves or utensils to handle food going straight to diners' plates, from the rice in a sushi roll to the mint in a mojito. The prohibition, in place in 41 other states, has long been recommended by regulators to curb the spread of food-borne illness.

The original legislation attracted no opposition from lobbying groups or chain restaurants because the no-hands approach is a national norm. But independent and high-end chefs and bartenders who weren't familiar with the regulation in other states said they were caught off-guard by the new rule coming to California. They said the ban disrupts well-established hand-washing routines, generates unnecessary waste of disposable gloves and restricts them in their craft.

Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, told lawmakers on Thursday that the ban would not have been approved had their concerns been raised earlier.

Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, introduced AB2130 to repeal the law he originally authored as part of an update to the state food code. Pan, who is chairman of the health committee and a pediatrician, said it became apparent that local health inspectors were more stringent in granting exceptions than lawmakers intended.

Inspectors are not supposed to start slapping eateries with fines for bare-hand contact until July 1, which is when the bill would take effect. The governor's office didn't say if Brown supports the legislation.

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