“To Wear or What Not To Wear While Cooking?” now that is the question….. And there are truly a number of ways to address this question. Should this cover food safety or personal safety, in the home or working in food service? Well, let’s try to cover it all!
When working in food service, the Food Code dictates some of what can or cannot be worn, let’s look at hair coverings for example. As you may or may not be aware, the Food Code does not state that hairnets must be worn. What it does require though, is that a hat, hair covering, hairnet or other hair restraint be worn to effectively keep hair from contacting exposed food, clean equipment and utensils as well as linens and single use food contact items. So in essence, this means a baseball hat, bandana and/or hair pulled back in a ponytail are all sufficient in regards to the Food Code. But what about in our own homes? Before answering that, a quick story…when I first started in food safety, it was about the same time that I was newly married and having family over for our first Thanksgiving. So, as stressed as I was in wanting to make the perfect meal and presentation, I donned a hairnet to make the meal. I definitely got the looks, but no hair was found in the food. I am certainly not advocating for hairnets in the home kitchen, but long hair pulled back in a ponytail can certainly help to keep hair contained…..because I think it is safe to say that nobody likes a hair in their food, right?
Along those same lines as hair in the food, a fur vest or a fuzzy sweater, although cozy, may not be the most appropriate cooking attire. These can shed while preparing food, leaving unwanted particles in the food. The other risk this presents is a potential fire hazard when reaching into the oven or over a burner.
Other clothing considerations in regards to personal safety are loose or dangling sleeves, it is important to roll them up while cooking. Scarves, ties and jewelry should also be removed. Thinking back to the Food Code, jewelry is another item that is cited there, specifically hand and arm jewelry. (The only hand/arm jewelry allowed in the Food Code is a plain band.) Jewelry not only can cause personal injury by getting caught on/in something, but can also be harborage areas for bacteria. Another harborage area for bacteria is unclean clothes, which is also addressed in the Food Code. Bacteria is definitely an added ingredient that you do not want in your food, thus the jewelry should come off and clean clothes should be worn.
I would be remiss if I didn’t address footwear. In foodservice, it is a good idea and often required by employers to wear slip resistant shoes. These areas can tend to get slippery, so these types of shoes are beneficial. Flip-flops and other open heel/open toed shoes are frowned upon as they can cause injury or the exposed foot can be injured by something falling to the floor. We might be able to get away with these in the home setting, but it is good food for thought in the area of appropriate attire for cooking.
Well, I think that covers it – “To Wear or What Not To Wear While Cooking?” no longer a question.
Until next time Cook Safe and Be Healthy!
Coborn’s, Inc. Food Safety and Nutrition Manager
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