No More Bare-Handed Food Handling in California. Even You, Sushi Chefs

Sushi chef in Tokyo
Sushi chef in Tokyo
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Raelene Gutierrez

A great sushi chef in another state once complained to me about a health code violation he'd received for making sushi without gloves. "Making sushi with gloves is like making love with a condom," he said. "It just isn't the same." Well, as of Jan. 1, California's law has changed so that there can no longer be any bare-handed contact with foods that won't be cooked. That means baked goods, salads - and yes, even sushi. 

According to Nation's Restaurant Newsthe new law will undergo a "soft rollout" over the next six months, meaning restaurants will receive warnings rather than violations on inspection reports so that owners and operators can become familiar with the new law. NRN describes the specifics of the law:

Under the new rules, such foods must be handled with single-use gloves or utensils like tongs, forks, spoons, bakery or deli wraps, wax paper, scoops, spatulas, or dispensing equipment.

As mandated previously, foodservice workers must also thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water before entering a food preparation area, before putting on clean gloves or between glove changes.

That's a lot of hand washing. 

It's hard to imagine the sushi masters at our finest Japanese restaurants adhering to this rule. So much of sushi preparation is about feel and tactile sense memory. 

There is a way for restaurants to seek an exemption for specific situations, but it's unlikely that the exemption covers "thousands of years of tradition." 

Hooray for safe sex, we suppose? 

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