ALTON — Illinois food service providers are now barred from using latex gloves as a new state law takes effect.
The Illinois General Assembly passed the Latex Glove Ban Act this year, which Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law in June. The goal of the new law is to protect workers and customers who may be allergic to latex.
The law does carve out exceptions, but they must be “due to a crisis that interrupts a food service establishment’s ability to source nonlatex gloves.” If latex gloves are used, a sign must be prominently displayed.
Glenn Beaubien, who owns State Street Market in Alton, is one of the restaurant owners who’s made the switch from latex.
The fine dining restaurant in the city’s downtown got notice of the change from the Illinois Department of Public Health about one month ago, Beaubien said. The restaurant has since switched to vinyl.
“Latex (gloves) are more expensive than vinyl gloves. So from a cost perspective, that’s a better win for us,” he said. “The vinyl gloves aren’t as tight fitting, so they’re a tad bit more cumbersome to use, but it still is a vehicle to ensure that we’re working cleanly.”
Beaubien said he was a little surprised to read about the change in a letter.
In his eyes, kitchens with a good handwashing culture are just as effective. He said he’s worked in states where gloves aren’t required.
“It worked very well,” he said. “We had a timer set. When the timer went off, everyone, for the most part, would stop doing what they were doing, and they would line up at the hand sink.”
That’s not to say gloves aren’t as safe, he said.
Starting in 2024, the latex ban will also apply to health care settings — many of which have already made the switch.
In health care, people who have repeated exposures to latex, generally, are the most likely to develop an allergy, said Maya Jerath, the clinical director of Washington University’s Division of Allergy and Immunology.
“That could be health care workers, or, for example, children who have been in the health care system a lot because they’re born with some kind of a chronic condition that requires them to have multiple surgeries,” Jerath said.
While she doesn’t have experience in the food service industry, she said it would be safe to assume the same could be true: The employees who’ve worn latex regularly would likely be the most at risk to develop an allergy.
Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said the new law fits the direction the food service industry is heading.
“For the most part, most of these are restaurants, providers, they’ve already moved away from latex gloves,” Toia said.
Food service is one of the most regulated industries, Toia said, so restaurants are naturally sensitive to their customers’ allergies, prompting a move by many away from latex.
He said he was happy to see state lawmakers include the provision that allows latex to be used in a bind.
“We’d always rather be at the table than on the menu,” he said.
At least seven other states have similar latex bans: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island.
Whether this is something that should be legislated by state lawmakers is another issue, Jerath said. The scientific evidence to move away from latex is there, however.
“If you can move away from it, that only benefits that population and possibly sensitizes less people as well,” she said.
Most dental offices, she said, have moved away from latex and opt for Nitrile or vinyl gloves. Wash U’s clinics have also moved away from latex.