California sushi chefs rejoice at end of glove law

  ·  Kyodo News, The Japan Times   ·   Link to Article

LOS ANGELES – A California law that required workers to wear gloves while handling “ready-to-eat” food has been repealed months after its introduction, allowing sushi chefs to once again offer delicacies to customers in the traditional fashion.

Ready-to-eat foods don’t require additional cooking or heating when served to customers. Beside sushi, the category also includes cold meats, sandwiches and garnishes. The law was intended to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses.

“The old feeling has come back,” said Toshiaki Toyoshima, owner of the popular Los Angeles restaurant Sushi Gen, who has been making sushi for nearly fifty years.

When the law took force at the start of the year, the chefs at Sushi Gen donned vinyl gloves. But when the repeal took effect on July 1, they ditched the gloves and were able to make food with their bare hands again.

Sushi chefs ran into a variety of problems with wearing gloves.

“The feeling of the fish is completely different, so I couldn’t really tell how fresh it was,” Toyoshima said. “I was really sad.”

Fellow chef Kazuhiko Shimizu said that when they weren’t using gloves, they used to wash their hands frequently.

“However, with gloves, you sometimes don’t notice whether or not it is dirty. It could get rather unsanitary,” Shimizu said.

California is where the sushi boom took off in the United States with the creation of the California roll. It’s not unusual to see local residents eat sushi with their bare hands.

“I heard that it’s important for sushi chefs to feel the rice and fish in order to make sushi properly,” said 33-year-old Arlene Feliciano, while dining at a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles. “I’m glad that they’ll be able to make sushi properly again.”

The Japanese Restaurant Association of America in Los Angeles, along with sushi making schools in the Los Angeles area, petitioned state government officials to repeal the law.

Bartenders who offer fruits in their cocktails also petitioned online to seek the repeal of the law.

California State Assembly member Richard Pan, who worked for the repeal, said: “It’s not about whether there are gloves or not, it should be about whether the local business and the health inspector have worked together to create a safe environment for the customer.”