I enjoy going to local restaurants in Solano County. My family gets to try assorted tasty cuisine and we stimulate the local economy to some extent.
I am always amazed by the wall of permits, licenses, fees they have to display in order to demonstrate compliance with the myriad laws our government has passed, under the guise of “protecting” us. In the halls of our state government, it seems they get some perverse pleasure in creating policies that require more licenses and fees from businesses.
One notable law that kicked in this year pertains to food safety and the discouragement of bare-hand contact with food. Here is the language in the newly activated law: “Except when washing fruits and vegetables, food employees shall not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands and shall use suitable utensils such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves, or dispensing equipment.”
If the barkeep at your local watering hole is mixing your favorite concoction, and puts a lime or lemon wedge to top it off, that’s considered food handling and he/she better be wearing a glove. The sushi chef that you have been patronizing for years and trust implicitly with your favorite roll must now wear gloves (or use deli tissue – because deli tissue and sushi are a natural fit).
I’m actually surprised that the well-meaning politicos and bureaucrats in Sacramento didn’t go further with this law. As it stands, it is insufficient to protect me and my family from the bacterial cesspools that inhabit our restaurants.
Where are the policies pertaining to proper storage and cleaning of tongs and spatulas? Someone is going to need to draft the specification for proper “deli tissue” . . . we can’t allow unacceptable deli tissue lurking in our kitchens and service counters. Moreover, please define “dispensing equipment.” In fact, perhaps we should create the California State Dispensing Equipment Inspection Department to regulate this important sector of food preparation.
Am I being sarcastic, or am I a concerned legislator? Sadly, it is hard to tell these days with so much vague legislation oozing from Sacramento.
Furthermore, this new law illustrates how our government is not always rowing in the same direction. In a previous column, I questioned the value of a plastic bag ban that is being promoted all across our state. The working theory is that plastic bags choke up our environment, and we should encourage people to get away from bags altogether. Yet, this new law mandates single-use plastic disposable gloves be used in food preparation. Where will all those used gloves go? Why were we not thinking about the environment when this law passed?
With the variety of food preparation methods available in a diverse, multicultural economy, having a one-size-fits-all policy handed down from bureaucrats will not address the potential risk specific to different types of food preparation. If you are a consumer who is concerned that food preparers aren’t cleaning their hands properly, let the management of the establishment know, and seek personal assurance from them that they can guarantee your culinary safety. If they still don’t meet or exceed your expectations, then don’t patronize their business.
Every time a law is passed, a false sense of security befalls a portion of our society. To assume that piling on more legislation will magically make people who didn’t care about hygiene snap into shape, and consumers no longer to need be involved or take responsibility for their health and safety, is naive and dangerous. Rather than disengaging from providers of goods and services who are being crushed by confusing laws and regulations, we the people should utilize our consumer power to directly influence their business decisions.
Brian Thiemer is chairman of the Solano County Libertarian Party. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.