A law so stupid California legislature seeks to repeal it two months after it took effect
California’s state legislature is seeking to repeal an idiotic law that took effect January 1st. It turns out that some feel-good regulatory efforts generate enough blowback that they can actually be reversed. Stacy Finz reports in the San Francisco Chronicle:
State lawmakers have passed a new food safety law that they wish they hadn't.
Anyone working in a California restaurant or bar who prepares ready-to-eat food - from bagels to sushi to fruit salad to cocktails - has to wear gloves or use deli tissue, spatulas or tongs. But the new rule, which went into effect Jan. 1, has had so much blowback that lawmakers are already trying to repeal it.
"It had unintended consequences," said Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a physician and chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Health, which carried the bill in the first place. "There was not a specific incident that led to the new rules. The statute was intended to make minor changes to the California Retail Food Code, because food safety is something we have to take very seriously. So we wanted to make sure that the bill was consistent with other food safety regulations, including minimizing bare-hand contact with food."
Unfortunately, Pan said, the legislation failed to take into account that workers might have a good reason to touch food with their bare hands.
The "glove law" was supposed to be a consensus bill, Pan said. It was agreed upon that if aspects of the bill had opposition at any time in the process, those provisions would be removed from the proposal. But there was no resistance, and AB1252 sailed through both houses of the Legislature with unanimous approval in 2013 and was signed by the governor.
Oh the good intentions were there, all right. But nobody with any real experience in the real world of restaurant and bar operations was consulted. That is par for the course in California, especially when bureaucrats write the regulations. So what has gone wrong?
Under the new provision, food and beverage handlers would have to change gloves every time they change tasks or touch another ready-to-eat food. Even then, they still would be required to wash their hands between glove changes. The concern is that amid multitasking, food and drink handlers might resist or forget to change gloves repeatedly.
"A dirty glove is worse than a clean hand," Pan said. "Gloves don't inherently guarantee safety."
Okay, so it might make things worse. Anything else?
If the law isn't rescinded, Remy Nelson, owner of Mojo Bicycle Cafe in San Francisco, estimates he'll go through 50,000 gloves a year just for bagels.
"It's not that we don't use gloves," he said. "But this means we have to change gloves for every food that's not going to be recooked. We're not Noah's Bagels. We do a really small number, and it takes 20 seconds to get the gloves on and off. People may not want McDonald's, but they want some speed. They have to get their food and get out the door."
Aaron Smith, executive director of the U.S. Bartenders' Guild and co-owner of 15 Romolo, a bar in North Beach, figures he'd lose $80,000 a year in revenue from the cost of gloves and inefficiency.
"The gloves would slow us down by about 8,000 drinks a year," he said. "We would have to accommodate more bartenders to make up the difference."
Holy smoke! Fifty thousand plastic gloves a year going into landfills, just for bagels and just at one establishment. Who could have predicted that? Anybody who knew something about the real world and bothered to think for a moment, naturally. But that would exclude the Democrat-controlled California State Legislature and Governor Brown.
Any other problems?
That doesn't take into account the dexterity that cooks and bartenders would lose for tasks such as preparing sushi or garnishing a drink with a lemon twist, which they say is nearly impossible when hands aren't bare. In fact, some sushi chefs have argued that part of the skill that goes into raw fish preparation is the temperature of one's hands. And then there's the concern of broken glass.
"Glass breakage is already an occupational hazard," Smith said. "We think wet gloves will make it worse."
But at least, the gloves are more sanitary, right?
"All our prep is done with public health in mind," he said. "But there is no science that I know of that says food-borne illness is more likely to be spread with bare hands than latex gloves."
Bartenders have already gathered 11,500 signatures on a petition to repeal this idiotic law. And one thing Califoirnia legislators are good at is eating and drinking at restaurants and bars, often with lobbyists picking up the tab. So there is actually a decent chjance that this law will be repealed.