Hygienic aspects of wearing disposable gloves when selling food at refrigerated counters

Project No. BGIA 2064


completed 08/2006


In order to demonstrate greater hygiene awareness to their customers in this area and thus increase consumer confidence, businesses introduced disposable gloves for their staff at refrigerated counters for the sale of meat, sausage, cheese and fish and for the preparation of salads and fruit. Despite frequent statements to the contrary, regulations governing foodstuffs do not require or recommend the wearing of gloves impermeable to moisture. Poor understanding of hygiene and exaggerated measures may however have negative consequences for employees when the wearing of disposable gloves for excessive periods of time leads to skin diseases. The objective of the project was to determine whether the use of disposable gloves by staff at refrigerated counters is in fact more hygienic than working with bare hands and suitable implements.


At the OHS training centre of the institution for statutory accident insurance and prevention in the meat-processing industry at Reinhardsbrunn (Thüringen), RODAC-plate tests were performed on a number of surfaces (the bare hands, surface of disposable gloves, surfaces of various dummy plastic instruments) in a butcher's shop with a functioning refrigerated counter and on all implements required in practice. The magnitude was also determined with which various foodstuffs sold at refrigerated counters are already colonized with bacteria when fresh. The same test approach was used to determine whether the use of skin-protection products had any influence whatsoever upon the concentration of bacteria on the various surfaces.


The various surfaces on the skin of the hands, the gloves, and the implements used (cutting boards, forks, etc.) exhibited a strong increase in the concentration of bacteria after as little as five minutes' work with various foodstuffs (a range of meat, sausage and cheese products). This increase was observed irrespective of whether gloves were worn. For control purposes, the same tests were performed on persons not working with foodstuffs. Tests on these subjects showed that the quantity of bacteria on the skin may vary substantially from one individual to another. No measurable transfer of these skin flora from the surface of the hand to the surfaces of dummy sausages was determined, however. It may therefore be assumed that the increased concentration of bacteria on the various surfaces is caused primarily by the foodstuffs themselves. The main transfer point for bacteria were the cutting boards, which came into contact with the various products. The use of various skin protection agents had no influence upon the concentration of bacteria on hands or the surfaces of gloves. The results obtained are to be used in a number of ways in the Healthy Skin Campaign run by the German statutory accident and health insurance institutions. They have already been taken into account in the update of the skin care code of practice (M 101) issued by the institution for statutory accident insurance and prevention for the retail sector (BGE). In addition, the institution for statutory accident insurance and prevention in the meat-processing industry (FBG) has drawn up recommendations for its member companies based upon these results and in consultation with the BGE.

Last Update:

2 May 2016


Financed by:
  • Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaften (HVBG)
Research institution(s):
  • Fleischerei-Berufsgenossenschaft
  • Berufsgenossenschaft für Einzelhandel

retail trade

Type of hazard:

work-related diseases


skin diseases (except cancer)

Description, key words:

hygiene, disposable gloves, refrigerating counters, RODAC-plates, bacteria