|"The two main purposes for wearing gloves in the food industry are to: (i) protect the food from contamination from human hands, and (ii) to protect workers from occupational hazards, such as cuts, micro-organism, chemical burns and thermal shocks. The less expensive disposable gloves are often used for function (i) mainly in food handling/services. On the other hand, for food processing which involves both functions (i) and (ii), particularly the latter, more expensive re- usable gloves, which are usually thicker with high cut-resistance, are preferred.
Three types of inexpensive disposable gloves are commonly available and used in the food service industry. They are the polyethylene, polyvinyl and natural rubber latex gloves.
- Polyethylene Gloves: These are the cheapest among the three types. They offer very poor barrier protection to both food handlers and food consumers, often splitting at the seams during use. They not only tear easily but also have extremely low resistance to heat (Food Bites, 2002; 12(2): 1-3), low dexterity, and are typically loose fitting. They are available in high, medium and low-density forms.
- Polyvinyl (PVC) Gloves: Unlike polyethylene gloves, polyvinyl gloves are seamless. Although they have better fit, dexterity and heat resistance than polyethylene, they too lack the properties expected of gloves for effective barrier protection. They tend to puncture and tear easily. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that vinyl gloves leak much more often than natural rubber latex gloves during use. Unlike polyethylene gloves, they can be used around heat sources without risk of melting.
- Natural Rubber (NR) Latex Gloves: NR latex gloves are known to provide very effective barrier protection against viral and bacterial transmissions. They also have great durability, excellent comfort, fit, tactile sensitivity, and high dexterity, and withstand high heat better than vinyl and polyethylene. However, the awareness of latex protein allergy in recent years prompted the concerns about their use. Such concerns have in fact been addressed through advancements in latex glove manufacturing technologies, which have now led to the production of low-protein latex gloves with low allergy risk.
- Re-usable gloves for food processing or food contact applications are often made from polyurethane, NR latex and nitrile. While nitrile gloves are less elastic and stiffer than NR latex gloves, they are resistant to many chemicals, but like many other glove types, are sensitive to alcohol degradation. Nitrile gloves have much better barrier integrity, dexterity, fit and durability than polyethylene and vinyl gloves
Polyurethane gloves, on the other hand, have very high tensile strength, durability and good cut resistance. Being free of chemical additives, they are expected to have reduced type IV allergy potential. Data concerning their barrier performance is not available."