Today, there are several types of disposable gloves available for various purposes. The most common ones are gloves made from nitrile, latex, and PVC (vinyl plastic). Gloves should always be chosen based on their intended use and the required level of protection.
Gloves can be classified either as medical devices according to Regulation (EU) 2017/745 or as personal protective equipment according to Regulation (EU) 2016/425. When gloves fall into either of these categories, they must meet the requirements of the regulation. This can be verified through harmonized standards.
Disposable Gloves for Food Use
Disposable gloves suitable for food use can be identified by the fork and knife symbol or alternatively by the text “suitable for food contact.” In order for disposable plastic gloves to be suitable for food contact, they must comply with both EU Regulation 1935/2004 on food contact materials and EU Plastic Regulation 10/2011 requirements.
The Plastic Regulation specifies usage restrictions for certain materials. For example, the use of products containing certain phthalates with fatty foods is prohibited. Phthalates are used to soften PVC (vinyl) plastics. According to the Health and Welfare Agency, phthalates can disrupt human hormonal function. Therefore, when handling food, especially fatty foods, attention should be paid to the material of the gloves.
Packaging labels of vinyl gloves containing phthalates should have a clear warning statement “not suitable for contact with fatty foods.” Phthalate-free vinyl gloves are also available on the market, but even these should not be used directly with fatty foods. Due to deficiencies observed in the packaging labels of gloves, the Finnish Food Authority advises always confirming the suitability of disposable gloves for different foods with the importer. It is the importer’s responsibility to ensure that the gloves have the required certificates and that their packaging labels are in order.
Disposable gloves can also cause allergies. Disposable gloves made from natural rubber (latex) can contain latex proteins that can cause conditions such as rash and itching. Powder-free latex gloves can reduce these symptoms. Vinyl gloves have also been shown to cause allergies.
Disposable gloves made from nitrile are high-quality and durable. Nitrile gloves do not contain allergenic latex proteins or harmful phthalates. High-quality gloves made from 100% nitrile are suitable for many purposes and are the safest choice for food use.