Can Colored Gloves Prevent a Food Recall?

Black? Blue? Green? Oh wait. How about orange?

Using gloves to color code departments for food safety

Disposable gloves come in a variety of colors. Have you ever wondered why? Do the different colors represent where they are suitable to be used? 

Actually, there are two common reasons for the colors of protective gloves for food handling.

1. Increased Visibility of Ripped Glove Parts in Food

If disposable gloves used in food processing fail (rip or tear), bits of glove can contaminate food. Contrasting colored pieces of material are more likely to be identified during processing, which allows the issue to be addressed before packaging is finished and a potential recall occurs.

Blue is a common glove color used in food processing areas because it is not commonly a color of food being processed. The color of the product as well as equipment and the surrounding area should be taken into consideration when selecting glove colors. Ideally a contrasting color that is easily recognized visually will be used in that area.


2. Visual Identification of Areas, Departments or Tasks

We have seen this food safety practice becoming more common practice. Food processors utilize different colored disposable gloves as a way to indicate processing areas, departments, certain staff or staff performing certain tasks. This strategy allows the company to visually color code areas and easily identify the area if a glove failure occurs through a root cause analysis.

Glove colors used to color code departments for food safety

Color coding areas provides a quick visual reference to help monitor and ensure food safety programs are being effectively practiced. For example, we have a customer that uses a blue glove in food processing, black for sanitation, green for packaging and white in their laboratory. The different color gloves assist quality assurance and operations managers in eliminating cross-contamination and quickly recognize an area with glove issues. For instance in this example, someone with black gloves should not be handling food product and only blue gloves should be used on the processing floor. Additionally, if a black ripped glove fragment is found as foreign material in the product, it narrows the root cause analysis' focus to the sanitation department and determining what caused the glove failure. Then it can be determined if the appropriate glove is being used (i.e. quality, durability, mil thickness) and if it is being used properly.

There is a not a best practices standard of which glove colors should be used in different departments. We find this to generally be a mix of:

      • Departmental Colors: Some departments already have a pre-determined color. For example, the allergen department wears green smocks and hats and therefore needs green gloves.
      • Contrast: As mentioned in #1, colors contrasting to the product being handled or equipment used are often selected to increase visibility. For instance, if a company is processing beef on a blue conveyor belt then a blue or red glove would not be the most food safe color option.
      • Supplier Options: After finding a glove that successfully performs in a department the color options the gloves are in will always be a limiting factor. Every glove is not available in every color. If your preferred glove color is not available, ask the supplier if it is available. Speaking from experience, at Eagle we offer custom glove colors, even if they aren't in our standard product offering, as long the ordering quantity is sufficient. We often order custom glove containers for companies and distributors, which allows them to specify the color, thickness, texture and packaging.

Reasons for a food recall often state “equipment failure”, which can include contamination with rubber. Although it’s not the guaranteed reason, we frequently wonder if these companies involved in the recalls were using a low quality food handling glove. Cheap “food grade” disposable gloves have a high rate of failure, creating opportunity for gloves pieces to enter food during processing. Read why disposable gloves with a higher failure rate compound food safety risks.

With 18,000 staphylococci shown to pass through a single glove hole during a 20-minute period, there is further opportunity to contaminate food with gloves that have a high failure rate. Read more in the top six hazards of cheap disposable gloves and how they affect food safety. 

The cost of a recall to a food company is calculated to be $10M in direct costs, before brand damage and lost sales are considered. Why risk this by using cheap gloves?

Click below to see our collection of ethically sourced, high-quality disposable nitrile glove options. All Eagle Protect gloves exceed examination grade standards with an AQL of 1.5.


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