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Vinyl gloves: In safe hands?

25 March 2013

According to Ian Johnson, managing director of Jodal, vinyl gloves are not safe to use in the vast majority of food production or preparation situations. Food Processing spoke with Ian to find out more.

Ian’s comments may sound alarming, but are substantiated by EU Directive EN1186-1. So how can this be if a glove dispenser is clearly marked with a CE Mark, a Goblet and Fork, or if a supplier has provided the Specification Sheet showing the gloves are EN1186-1 ‘Food Safe’?

“Firstly,” Ian explained, “We need to establish what exactly CE means. If you turn to page three (In summary), of the HSE Website ‘Manufacture & Supply of Work Equipment’, it stipulates: ‘CE marking indicates that the manufacturer has met the minimum legal requirements’ under European Directives.

“The word "indicates" means it is up to the user, to fully check the suitability of use.”
So isn’t the Goblet and Fork symbol proof that gloves are certified ‘Food Safe’?

“Vinyl gloves predominantly come from China,” continued Ian. “Chinese manufacturers will print anything they are instructed to on packaging, they are also very happy to pack 80 gloves in a box marked 100 gloves. Their only concern is winning the order.

“The pressure to drive down costs leads to importers cutting corners and many importers buy wherever the price is cheapest that month. If an importer has had an EN1186 test carried out on gloves from factory A, the importer simply applies that approval to all 10 factories that they seek prices from. They may never buy from the approved factory again, therefore the Goblet and Fork is a complete misrepresentation.” 

Business Protection Regulation 2008 No. 1276 clearly states it is an offence to engage in advertising which is misleading under regulation 3. However, Ian warns that in many cases Importers buy from agents without knowing from where the gloves originate: “Many have never visited or audited any manufacturers, they are in ignorance of some of the disgraceful conditions gloves can be made in. All they want to know is, ‘Is the glove cheaper?’.

“Some may think they are okay if the supplier’s Specification Sheet has EN1186 on it. But if you check EN1186-1:2002 in relation to the tasks your own company is using disposable vinyl gloves for, it is highly likely that you are using the wrong type of glove, because Blue Vinyls probably fail to meet the approval levels of EN1186 for your particular food substances. 

“As an example, all zoological meats, oils and mayonnaise cannot be handled with vinyl gloves. That’s only three items. There are plenty more.”

Based on this information, how could a company’s supplier manage to provide them with a Test Certificate? “Very easily, deception or ignorance,” asserted Ian. “EN1186 consists of a group of tests against various simulants. When the importer approaches a test house for a quotation, naturally the test house wants to win the order, so they recommend the most basic test, because this is cheapest and they know the glove will pass. All disposable gloves pass this test. Basically its water!

“The importer now has their certificate, which they pass to every food processor - no matter what factory or country the gloves are from. Often they do not know this, they never ask what the customer is processing and they do not understand (and do not want to do so) as the facts could mean losing the business.

“If your company is handling anything other than those products listed under Simulant A, B or C using Vinyl gloves, you are in contravention of EN1186.”

Who is responsible for this? “Test houses cannot be held responsible, they are not privy to where the goods are used. Nor the manufacturer, as it only carries out the instructions of the importer. Try suing a factory in China!

“Responsibility lies with the importer. It is their own designed packaging that carries the suitability of use information, and they provide the EN Certification - even if they know it is not valid. All they are interested in, ‘the order’.

“Self certification is the other culprit, it allows those who are unscrupulous to drive the industry in this direction. If moral companies do not become less moral, they end up with no business. Since the commencement of the credit crunch 2008/9 it has proliferated.

“I believe the way forward is that all coloured vinyl packaging should specify the exact list of EN1186 approved foods that the gloves have been certified as suitable to handle, as should the Specification Sheets. ‘Feelers Food Mates’ have the list on the packaging, plus the certificate number on the outer case.

If you want to check if vinyl gloves are safe to use in your production, or alternative gloves that are safe, contact

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