Infection control management systems play an important role within the healthcare and food sectors, to help minimise the risk of cross-contamination and pathogen infection. It is reported that in Aotearoa, New Zealand, 10% of inpatients develop a hospital-acquired infection, annually costing hospitals between $50 and $85 million. It is also estimated that food-borne illnesses cause nearly 200,000 people to be sick annually.
Glove cross-contamination is a global issue and has been implicated as a contributory cause in over 15% of (food-borne) outbreaks investigated.
New and unused disposable gloves should be clean, you shouldn’t expect anything but! However, large varieties of bacterial contamination of new and unused single-use gloves have been tested for in scientific studies. Results showed gloves were contaminated with pathogens responsible for food-borne illnesses (FBI's), human skin bacteria and pathogenic contaminants.
GLOVE CONTAMINATION STARTS AT THE FACTORY
Have you considered that bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus and E.Coli. can grow in unused glove boxes due to a lack of optimal factory hygiene during the glove manufacturing process?
Glove manufacturing is largely unregulated and cleanliness or sanitation is not accounted for in FDA compliant glove testing. Disposable gloves with FDA compliance for food handling or approved for medical use, are not tested for their bacterial or bioburden load.
Testing of new, unused gloves, conducted by Eagle Protect, together with internationally recognised microbiologist Barry Michaels, has further confirmed the presence of pathogens and microbes responsible for FBI's (including E. coli and Staphylococcus), and those specific to food spoilage and occupational skin disease. These findings are due specifically to:
- Poor sanitation of glove factories
- The polluted water source used for glove manufacturing processes
The origins of these microbes and pathogens have been traced specifically to:
- Polluted surface water from agricultural, industrial and urban run-off
- Wastewater, human faeces and animal gut bacteria
- Factory water filtration units
- Glove drying cycles
- Human skin bacteria
- Paperboard packaging
WHY IS THIS BECOMING AN ISSUE?
If you have an Organic Certification or are testing for specific microbes or toxins on your products, the gloves handling your products must be clean, non-toxic and free from harmful pathogens which have the potential to contaminate.
One of the many shortcuts common in the low-cost manufacturing of disposable gloves, is the reduction of wash-tank clean-out or water quality. This leads to a longer build-up of microbes and chemicals on the gloves, which can subsequently have food worker and health consequences.
Studies of bacterial contamination of unused protective gloves have indicated environmental contaminants of up to 10,000 bacteria per glove and skin commensals ranging up to 1,000 colony forming units (CFU) per glove. Because single-use disposable gloves are non-sterile, there is a possibility of bacteria continuing to grow after they are packaged. A high bacteria load can indicate a lack of optimal hygiene during the manufacturing process.
A well-regarded study conducted in New Zealand under hospital conditions reported disturbing information on commercially available disposable nitrile gloves:
- Environmental bacteria, particularly Bacillus species, were present on 31/38 (81.6%) of (disposable glove) samples, and a half (19/38) of the samples were contaminated with skin commensals.
- The presence of skin commensals in boxes opened on day 0 indicates the passage of bacteria from someone’s hands (likely, or some other part of the body) potentially during the manufacturing process.
- Over 80% of gloves on the opening of the box were contaminated with bacteria.
This may not be of danger, but the most likely implication of the sanitary conditions (or lack thereof) in the offshore glove production and packing facility. While a certain amount of environmental bacteria are inevitable in the manufacturing process, an effort should be made to keep levels to a minimum because they are an infection risk, especially for people who are immunocompromised.
With studies showing unused non-sterile gloves can become contaminated, reliable and consistent glove sourcing is essential to stop the spread of pathogens to food and other contact surfaces.
Due to rigorous quality procedures and standards of manufacturing, the testing of total bacterial count for Eagle Protect nitrile gloves, immediately drawn from the production line, after 6 months of ageing and after 1 year of ageing = 0.
Steve Ardagh, CEO of Eagle Protect, who has personally visited our suppliers, explains that "Our factories have significant systems in place to both prevent this sort of bacterial contamination and tests to ensure this is the case.
There are extra length cleaning tanks which are used to leach out any chemicals left after the dipping and drying process. Gloves are stripped off the Formers by hand and then placed in bags immediately and double sealed. They are moved to the packaging areas as needed for sales in positive airflow controlled environments."
Eagle glove factories carry out routine bacterial swabs and other tests to ensure the quality control systems remain effective.
Help stop the spread of cross-contamination, choose a reliable glove supplier with rigorous quality control testing and manufacturing standards in place. Let us help safeguard what matters most to you.
- Michaels, B 2018. Determination of the % of Food-borne Outbreaks (FBIs) Attributed to Glove-Related Cross-Contamination Causes.
- Cornwall J, Hughes K, Theis J-C, Brooks H. 2006. Bacterial Contamination of Unused, Disposable Non-Sterile Gloves on a Hospital Orthopaedic Ward. Am. J. Infect. Cont. 34(3):128-30.
- Ferreira AM, de Andrade D, Haas VJ. 2011. Bacterial contamination of non-sterile disposable gloves before use. Rev. esc. enferm. USP. 45(3).
- Hughes KA, Cornwall J, Theis JC, Brooks HJ. 2013. Bacterial contamination of unused, disposable non-sterile gloves on a hospital orthopaedic ward. Australas Med J. 2013 Jun 30;6(6):331-8.
- Kramer A, Assadian O. 2016. Indications and the requirements for single-use medical gloves. GMS Hyg Infect Control. 2016; 11: Doc01.