New Food Service Rules for California Restaurants

From the California Restaurant Association:
New law: No bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, a new section (113961) of the California Retail Food Code will prohibit bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. The new requirement will make the use of gloves or utensils mandatory whenever ready-to-eat foods are handled.

Many local health departments have not yet provided any guidance documents and it is widely expected that this new law will have a soft rollout for enforcement, allowing more time for health department outreach and operator compliance.

The California Restaurant Association (CRA) will keep restaurant operators apprised of details as they become available. The Sacramento County Environmental Management Department has released the guidance below and it is expect that this guidance will be similar to what other local health departments will use:


The National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Foods has identified three interventions that are effective in preventing the transmission of foodborne viruses and bacteria in food facilities:
•Restricting ill employees from working with food (already in code).
•Using proper hand washing procedures (already in code).
•Preventing bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food (2013 code addition).

Specific requirements

“…(b) Except when washing fruits and vegetables, as specified in Section 113992 or as specified in subdivisions (e) and (f), food employees shall not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands and shall use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves, or dispensing equipment.

(c) Food employees shall minimize bare hand and arm contact with exposed food that is not in a ready-to-eat form.”

How do I comply?

Foodservice workers must wear disposable gloves or use utensils to handle ready-to-eat foods.

What is a ready-to-eat food?

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.

Handling ready-to-eat foods

Food employees can handle ready-to-eat foods by using any of the following utensils: tongs, forks, spoons, bakery or deli wraps, wax paper, scoops, spatulas, dispensing equipment or single-use disposable gloves.

Single-use disposable gloves

Gloves may be used to handle ready-to-eat foods. However, gloves must be changed often. One pair of gloves may only be used for one task, used for no other purpose and must be discarded when damaged or soiled, when interruptions in food handling occur or when changing from one type of food to another. Gloves also must be changed every time hands are washed.

Hand washing

Foodservice workers are required to thoroughly wash hands using soap and warm water whenever hands or gloves are contaminated including but not limited to:
•When entering the food preparation area
•Before putting on clean single us gloves and between glove changes
•Immediately before engaging in food preparation
•Before dispensing, serving food, or handling clean tableware and service utensils
•After using the toilet room
•After touching any bare part of the body other than clean hands and arms
•After coughing, sneezing, blowing nose, using tobacco, eating or drinking
•After caring for a service animal or touching shellfish/ crustaceans in display tanks
•During food preparation to remove soil/contamination and prevent cross-contamination
•When changing tasks – between handling raw foods and ready to eat foods


In accordance with CalCode section 113961(f) food employees not serving a highly susceptible population may contact ready to eat foods if certain practices are followed, including pre-approval from local County health departments. The application for approval includes identification of foods touched by bare hands, documentation of employee training in proper hand washing, prevention of cross-contamination, a written health plan and documentation that employees use added measures to prevent contamination.

For more information on this option, contact local health department officials.