Hit & Run

California Sushi Chefs Can No Longer Use Bare Hands

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Nor can any other handler of food in the great state of California.

Sushi chefs who take their art and craft seriously aren't pleased, reports L.A. Weekly:

CDC

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….

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." 

If you are washing fruits and vegetables, you are in the clear. However, if you are a bartender adding an olive to a martini or some celery to a bloody mary in the state of California, if you don't don gloves or use tongs, you are now breaking the law, according to this report from the California Restaurant Association:

Foodservice workers must wear disposable gloves or use utensils to handle ready-to-eat foods…..A ready-to-eat is food is in a form that is edible without requiring additional preparation to be safe to eat. These foods include, but are not limited to:

  • any food that will not be thoroughly cooked or reheated (165F) before it is served
  • any food item that has already been cooked
  • prepared fresh fruits and vegetables served raw or cooked
  • salads and salad ingredients
  • fruit or vegetables for mixed drinks
  • garnishes, such as lettuce, parsley, lemon wedges, pickles
  • cold meats and sandwiches
  • raw sushi fish and sushi rice
  • bread, toast, rolls, baked goods.

For what it's worth, reports the Centers for Disease Control in 2012:

  • The overall incidence of infection with six key foodborne pathogens (Campylobacter, Listeria,Salmonella, STEC O157, Vibrio, and Yersinia) was 22% lower [than a three-year control period in late '90s].