Health care providers and food service workers in Illinois will have to end their use of latex gloves by 2024 because of a new law designed to protect workers and customers who may be allergic to latex. Food service providers are now barred from using latex gloves as a new state law takes effect.
Last June, Governor JB Pritzker signed HB209 into law restricting the use of latex gloves in food preparation and medical services and protecting thousands in Illinois from adverse allergic reactions. Latex allergies can range from skin irritation to severe anaphylaxis, preventing those suffering from patronizing restaurants that use the gloves in food preparation or serving or receiving care from many medical practitioners.
“We want to make sure that our spaces are accessible to all Illinoisans—including those with latex allergies,” said Governor Pritzker. “With this legislation, we are preventing avoidable allergic reactions and subsequent hospitalizations. I am proud to sign this bill into law to help create a more accessible, considerate, and healthy Illinois.”
The legislation includes provisions for food service unable to source non latex gloves. If other gloves can’t be obtained, latex gloves can be used providing prominent signage warns customers of the change. The same exception applies for medical providers, with specific instructions to prioritize available non-latex gloves for use on patients with latex allergies or patients unable to give medical history. The law took effect for food service establishments and EMS personnel on January 1, 2023 and on January 4, 2024 for health care facility personnel.
“We want to make sure that our spaces are accessible to all Illinoisans—including those with latex allergies,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “With this legislation, we are preventing avoidable allergic reactions and subsequent hospitalizations. The law does carve out exceptions, but they must be “due to a crisis that interrupts a food service establishment’s ability to source nonlatex gloves.” If latex gloves are used, a sign must be prominently displayed.
Glenn Beaubien, who owns State Street Market in Alton, IL is one of the restaurant owners who’s made the switch from latex. The fine dining restaurant in the city’s downtown got notice of the change from the Illinois Department of Public Health about one month ago, Beaubien said. The restaurant has since switched to vinyl. “Latex (gloves) are more expensive than vinyl gloves. So, from a cost perspective, that’s a better win for us,” he said. “The vinyl gloves aren’t as tight fitting, so they’re a tad bit more cumbersome to use, but it still is a vehicle to ensure that we’re working cleanly.”
Beaubien said he was a little surprised to read about the change in a letter. In his eyes, kitchens with a good handwashing culture are just as effective. He said he’s worked in states where gloves aren’t required. “It worked very well,” he said. “We had a timer set. When the timer went off, everyone, for the most part, would stop doing what they were doing, and they would line up at the hand sink.” That’s not to say gloves aren’t as safe, he said.
Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said the new law fits the direction the food service industry is heading. “For the most part, most of these are restaurants, providers, they’ve already moved away from latex gloves,” Toia said. Food service is one of the most regulated industries, Toia said, so restaurants are naturally sensitive to their customers’ allergies, prompting a move by many away from latex. He said he was happy to see state lawmakers include the provision that allows latex to be used in a bind. “We’d always rather be at the table than on the menu,” he said.
At least seven other states have similar latex bans: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island.
“This is such a monumental moment for all of us that struggle with this life-threatening allergy daily,” added bill advocate Christopher Krohe. “We will finally be able to do things that others do without an issue. I’m so grateful that we have Representatives and Senators that actually listen. I’m so thankful that they worked with me and the other advocates I put together to get this bill written and passed. After many hours of emails and conference calls and video meetings we finally made it to the finish line. This is a BIG WIN.”