Our employees usually don't wear gloves when processing food products. For good reason.
"That's not clean!" we sometimes hear when people see images of our processing plants. You can immediately see from the photos that our staff don't wear gloves. We don't use gloves because they aren't more hygienic, and they also aren't sustainable. Quite the opposite.
Counter-productive in cashew processing
Gloves have to be changed several times a day and they ultimately all end up in the rubbish. There are around 400 people working at our cashew processing plant. This would add up to considerable amount of plastic waste every day.
As they crack the cashew's hard outer shell, our workers use a cracking tool with a sharp blade. Gloves tear easily at this stage and some of this plastic could end up in the nuts.
After the shell is cracked, workers remove the cashew kernel's thin membrane with a knife. The workers need to skillfully use their fingers to ensure the nuts don't break. Gloves would make this work very hard.
Hands need protection
Don't forget, gloves can be uncomfortable to wear. Hands sweat in plastic gloves, and this could lead to skin rashes. It could even be worse if the corrosive liquid that seeps out of the cashew's outer shell after its cracked should find its way into the workers' gloves.
This corrosive liquid can cause chronic skin problems if it isn't handled properly. Our employees protect their hands with cashew oil while working. Cashew oil is a by-product of the production process and is extracted from oily kernels that are not suitable for consumption. It acts as a natural antidote to the corrosive liquid from the shells. At the end of the day, the workers clean their hands thoroughly with maize flour and lemon juice to remove all traces of the liquid.
Justine Nana lives with her family in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. In the video she talks about her daily work in cashew production (with German subtitles).
International hygiene standards
The hygiene measures in place at the plant are a lot more effective than gloves. Cashew production is carried out according to the HACCP guidelines for hazard analysis and critical control points. This means that we uphold the same standards for the production and handling of food as European facilities would.
All of the areas where the cashews are processed as a final product are treated as specific hygiene zones. Before entering the plant, employees must wash their hands thoroughly, following the same advice that is familiar to us all since the Covid outbreak. They then put on their work clothes as well as hair caps and masks.
These hygiene measures are very effective, as our inspections confirm. We carry out a microbiological analysis of our products several times a year. Any contamination due to insufficient hygiene measures would be flagged during these inspections.
So, gloves are only presumed to be more hygienic. They can get just as dirty as hands. Clean hands and good hygiene measures make all the difference.