By Gloria Nzeka
Capital News Service
Michigan restaurants that use latex gloves might be forced to notify their customers because the gloves leave traces of latex protein on food — causing allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Michigan Rep. Larry Inman, R-Williamsburg, is sponsoring a bill that would require restaurants using latex gloves during food preparation to post a notice.
According to the American Latex Allergy Association, an estimated 3 million people in the United States are allergic to latex. Symptoms can include hives, runny nose and sneezing, headache, redness and teary eyes, and in some cases, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Inman’s bill was motivated by a constituent whose sister had a severe reaction to food that was prepared using latex gloves, said Trey Hines, his legislative director.
After looking at what some other states have done regarding latex gloves in food service, “Inman determined that requiring a posted notice was the best way of preventing something like this from happening in the future,” Hines said.
Meghan Swain, the executive director of the Michigan Association for Local Public Health, said she’s not sure how big an issue latex gloves are in Michigan.
“It’s not clear how many restaurants actually use these,” Swain said. “A lot of times they are using clear plastic or non-latex gloves.
“We knew that this bill or a version of this bill was going to come out, but I didn’t hear anything from my local health departments that this was an issue in Michigan.”
Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development website says “an increasing number of consumers appear to be latex-sensitive.”
The department recognizes latex gloves as potentially harmful and advocates the use of non-latex gloves.
Other states such as Arizona, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and recently Hawaii have banned the use of latex gloves from food service processing. Lawmakers in California, Iowa, Nebraska and Texas have proposed similar legislation.
Hines said that a posted notice would inform customers while not forcing restaurants and other food service establishments to change their practices. Some food service providers consider latex gloves to be useful for slicing or chopping due to their snug fit and aid in gripping knives.
The bill is pending in the House Agriculture Committee.