Wearing jewellery to work in a food business

The policy on wearing jewellery to work in a food business can differ from food business to food business and from country to country.  Welcome to Week 22 of the HACCP Mentor Food Safety HACCP Challenge. This week’s challenge involves you checking if staff are wearing jewellery to work. There are also some additional actions that I would like you to check.

Is there a legal requirement for wearing jewellery in a food business?

Depending on where your food business is located, there may be a legal requirement prohibiting the wearing of any jewellery within a food premises. Just refer to your local food safety legislation for guidance.

How to achieve this #FSHChallenge

Step 1: Check what your local food safety rules stipulate around wearing jewellery when working in a food business.

Step 2: Review your current food business jewellery policy for compliance with your local food safety legislation. If you don’t have a jewellery policy, now is a good time to get one documented and implemented.

Step 3: Make changes to your jewellery policy if you find that it does not currently align with your relevant food legislation.

Step 4: Walk around your food business and undertake a visual check of the current jewellery wearing status.

Step 5: Take appropriate corrective action for any discrepancies that you may find.

Reasons why jewellery should not be worn in a food business

There are is some sound justification as to what jewellery should not be worn in a food business. Here are a few:

  • You cannot wash your hands effectively if you are wearing rings on your fingers.
  • Jewellery may accidentally drop into food causing a foreign matter contamination issue.
  • Touching jewellery worn in ears, noses, tongues and other facial areas can result in contact with bodily fluids (which may harbour bacteria).
  • There is an increased risk of personal injury if the jewellery gets caught by moving machinery parts or equipment.

Is there a customer requirement not allowing jewellery?

If your food business has or hopes to have third-party food safety and quality certification it may be a requirement that a “no jewellery” policy is developed and implemented within your food business. Below are some reference points for common GFSI recognised standards. If there is a difference between what the law states in your area and what your customer certification standard states, always go with the one that is the strictest.

  • SQF 7.2, Clause states that “Jewelry and other loose objects shall not be worn or taken into a food handling or processing operation or any area where food is exposed. The wearing of plain bands with no stones and medical alert bracelets that cannot be removed can be permitted, however the supplier will need to consider their customer requirements and the applicable food legislation”.
  • SQF 7.2, Clause All visitors shall be required to remove jewelry and other loose objects.
  • BRC Issue 7, Clause 7.2.1 – “watches shall not be worn”, “jewellery shall not be worn, with the exception of a plain wedding ring or wedding wristband”, “rings and studs in exposed parts of the body, such as ears, noses, tongues and eyebrows, shall not be worn”.

Walk the jewellery talk

You cannot expect your staff to comply with a ‘no jewellery’ policy if management and QA are not setting the example.  It saves a lot of hassle and conflict to have the same rules for all.

What are the jewellery rules for your food business?

Pay it forward and help your fellow food safety and QA professionals. Please share your current jewellery wearing policy (and your reasoning) or a legislation link relevant to your food business and location. This helps to educate everyone on this issue.

66 thoughts on “Wearing jewellery to work in a food business”

  1. With regard to an Indian traditional wedding, the women must wear bangles for 40 days after the ceremony. so as not to breach human rights legislation in Canada – do you have a suggestion on how an Employer might have the employee contain the bangles, such as wrapping them close to the arm of the production worker, and covering them with their uniform? I know you have mentioned above “no jewelry,” but how would we be able to uphold human rights and still pass an audit? Any suggestions would be great. Thank you, Diana

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      This is a tricky one Diane. I suppose it really comes down to one law over another. It can become a massive rabbit hole. I would suggest completing a risk assessment to understand how this would impact food safety in your facility. You would also need to develop some very clear procedures around what constitutes ‘human rights legislation’ in your country of manufacture. This maybe a question for your company lawyer.

  2. I know we aren’t allowed to wear jewelry while at work but the neck chain I have is a religious aspect due to which I have been wearing it for a long time and I cannot remove that. What concerns me is how something which isn’t exposed can cause harm to health and safety at the workplace. Although I make sure not to have jewelry on my hands or places where those stay exposed.

    If you could let me know how that neck chain causes major health and safety concerns I will try to remove that off. Although that stays unexposed at most of the times as i believe.
    Looking forward to hearing back from you.

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Hi Pratik, jewelry can become a physical hazard if it falls into the food. There are also several different laws and customer standards that prohibit the wearing of jewelry where food is exposed. You are also required to comply with the food safety policies and procedures for the food business that you work for.

  3. Cristina Villegas

    Is no jewelry policy a must rule to implement or can depend on risk base assessment of the company itself. Ex. Canteen personnel – cook and other kitchen staff – no jewelry at all is allowed (since they have direct touch on raw food during cooking process) Food server – (selling area) can wear earrings & wrist watch – food is serve with the use of laddle – no direct contact to the food).

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Hi Cristina

      Thanks for your question. It really depends on what the regulatory requirements are in your country of production. You may also need to refer to any 3rd party food safety certification that you maintain.

  4. I have a daith piercing in my left ear which I got on medical grounds as I did suffer terrible migraine . I have removed all my other ear rings except this as I can’t take it apart. Can my kitchen catering manager fire me because of this? Many thanks

  5. Ive recently been warned to remove my gold earing my son had engraved for my 40th birthday 17yrs ago. I work in a care home with Dementia clients as a Housekeeper. Ive even been threatened with the sack if l don’t

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      Thanks for sharing your experience Simone. I understand the significance of some of the jewelry we may wear but food safety and legal compliance has to come first.

  6. I hope this is not off topic, but having a small crown ring tattoo in my finger is my plan after I finish my culinary school.
    I would love to hear your input on ring tattoos dear mentor.

    1. Hi Michael

      Thanks for your comment. Having a tattoo of a ring on your finger does not constitute a risk to food safety.

  7. I feel like if I allow a man to wear his plain wedding band, that bacteria can build under and then ask a woman to remove studs that are literally locked in her ears or a nose ring that is a ring and can not fall out – is completely misguided. We work with our hands – the ring is off limits but the nose ring is fine. Advice.

    1. The requirements around jewelry will be governed by local laws and customer standards. For me, I advocate wearing nojewelry at all. There are plenty of examples world-wide where jewelry has ended up in food product.

  8. I work in a supermarket where checkout staff are allowed to wear jewelry, nail extension and nail polish I have since been tranfered to the cafe in the store to operate the till in that area and have een forced to remove my very small screw back earings I am not working with or handling food at all is this a fair reqest as I am not doing any different than what I would be doing on checkouts

    1. Hi Paula

      The requirements around jewelry will be governed by local laws, company policy and customer standards. For me, I advocate wearing no jewelry at all in food handling areas or where there is open product.

  9. Margaret Stocker

    I work in the food service industry (coffee shop??????) My wedding band had diamonds on it. No go!!
    Hated to remove it after 31 years of marriage, but I got myself a silicone band (red)…my husbands favorite color.
    When I’m off work, I put on my original ring. Hey, rules are rules.

    1. Thanks Margaret for sharing your experience. Just keep in mind that the new silicone band that you wear will still be a potential risk.

    2. Hi
      I’ve recently started work as a supervisor at a catering department. I will be preping food and serving . I wear gold studs which are locked in my ears and I also wear a religious studded gold ring on my index finger . Can I wear these items please clarify

      Many thanks
      Smita SINDHAV

      1. Amanda Evans-Lara

        Hi Smita

        I do not recommend that a food handler wear any jewellery whilst preparing or handling food. You will need to also refer to the jewellery policy documented for your individual food business.

  10. Hi I’ve just been hired at a food packaging plant and they require no jewelry. I do have ear piercings but two of them are spaced out and I don’t feel comfortable leaving them open. Is it alright to have plugs, skin tone silicone ear plugs, on the job?

    1. Hi Apryl, if the policy is no jewelry, that would mean no jewelry (regardless of the type you have). You and your company would have to assess the risk to potential contamination and also refer to customer standards and local food regulation.

        1. Amanda Evans-Lara

          You would need to refer to your local food safety laws for this. I would also consider the work-place safety risk as well getting it caught and potentially injuring your finger.

    1. Regardless if the hair is natural or fake, all hair should be securely covered so it does not end up in the food.

  11. I work in Nashville Tennessee and im in need of a medical alert device for my heart condition. I’m not sure of the requirements for Nashville but the company that I work for says no jewellery except for wedding bans and I’m also aware that its a very high number of death in the work place due to this rule, what should I do.

    1. Hi Ella, As far as I am concerned, there should be no jewelry worn by any food handler (including visitors or other workers who walk through a food handling area)

  12. I’m a server in a hotel where the rule is :earrings suppose to be smaller than a 25 cent. My earring is smaller than that. Yet my supervisor said it’s to bigand wants the company to give me a letter for it. I pointed out another individual who has the same earring as me. The supervisor said i am rude. I believe he’s being bias because the other
    her person is his friend.what is your take?

    1. Hi Sandra…As far as I am concerned, there should be no jewelry worn by any food handler (including visitors or other workers who walk through a food handling area). For the bias issue, I suggest you contact your human resources department regarding that issue.

  13. my daughter has had a nose piercing and is in the healing process. She has covered it over with a plaster when on shift. She very seldom works direct with food and she mainly answers the phone in a well know pizza chain. She had it changed to a clear one but had a little reaction to it so had to put the original one back in. The policy states that no piercing allowed but she had noticed that a driver at her store was wearing a tongue piercing. Can i complain to the manager as to why she is being penalised yet the other member is allowed to wear to their piercing. It also says that some franchises have stricter uniform standards. Surely if its company policy than it should be followed no matter what? They also have a policy of wearing hairnets but this policy is not followed either.

    1. Unfortunately this is very common Julie. Companies have written policies but do not always follow them. However, it should not be taken as “just because xxx, is not complying, that means that I don’t have to comply either”. Management really needs to enforce policy to ensure everyone is complying. As far as I am concerned, there should be no jewelry worn by any food handler (including visitors or other workers who walk through a food handling area).

    1. Hi Tehmina

      I always like to go by the rule that ‘nothing must fall from the body that will contaminate food’. You need to assess the risk applicable to your situation and ensure suitable control measures are in place. You also need to refer to your relevant food safety legislation and customer requirements at your place of food manufacture.

      1. We have an issue in our Food Industry in South Africa where traditional items are allowed to be worn. Unfortunately this is a Food Safety Manager’s worse nightmare as these include animal skins (known as “Isiphandla”) which are worn on the wrists of predominantly Zulu men. These animal skins are taken after the slaughtering of a goat (which is normally done during celebrations, funerals etc.) and are squirted with the bile taken from the goat. These animal skins are not allowed to be cut off without informing the ancestors and as a result, most of the Zulus will not cut them off, as they believe that they need to fall off naturally.

        We purchase wrist guards, which are similar to the hairnets worn in production areas, but they do not stay in place and 9 times out of 10, the wrist guard creeps up into the sleeve leaving the animal skin exposed. As the skin ages, the hair and bits of the skin start to fall off…….and then we wonder why we have grey hair 😉

        Does anyone have another suggestion as to what could possibly be used to cover these? I need something that would be tighter so that the animal skin would be “locked in” underneath it, but cannot be sticky that it would cause damage to their traditional items.

        Any suggestions??

        1. That is certainly a predicament Leigh. Is the wearing of disposable gloves that have a longer length over the wrist possible? We welcome feedback from anyone else with experience and a solution for this issue

    2. I don’t understand why you aren’t allowed to wear a wrist watch. It is covered with a glove when preparing foods. Managers don’t have to wear their hair up or a visor, or hat around food so why are we not allowed to wear a lousy WATCH that doesn’t come into contact with FOOD?

      1. Amanda Evans-Lara

        Thanks for your comment Dorothy. I understand that it may be confusing when management do not follow the same rules as food handlers. Management should really be setting an example for the rest of the organisation. As for the watch – wearing a watch does not allow you to wash your hands effectively past your wrist. It is important to wash your hands, wrists and lower arms to prevent any chance of cross-contamination or cross-contact of allergens.

  14. Dolores Martin

    What do you do if someone has a medical issue such as Migraines where ear postings are subscribed by a doctor? Can they wear them?

    1. Hi Dolores, I am not familiar with what ear postings are. Can you please expand further? I always like to go by the rule that ‘nothing must fall from the body that will contaminate food’. You need to assess the risk applicable to your situation and ensure suitable control measures are in place.

  15. I work at a papermill that is trying to become food grade certified. They are saying that we can wear stud earrings but not plug earings.. even though mine screw together so they are far harder to get out of my ear than simple stud earrings.. is this being byass to a small.minority of the work force? Or is there a rule specifically for guaged earrings? They are 5/8 big and the state is Wisconsin

    1. Hi Mike, I don’t believe that the law is being biased when it comes to potential for food contamination. You would need to take it up with your management. My thought would be a blanket rule of no earings allowed.

  16. I work in a plant that is under usda and SQF i live in California, is there a state regulation that states you can not wear makeup

    1. Hi Ana

      Check out Clause 9 of § 117.10 Personnel (Part 117 – Current Good Manufacturing Practices, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-based Preventive Controls for Human Food, Subpart B – Current Good Manufacturing Practice). There is reference to cosmetics applied to the skin in that part of the FSMA Regulation.

  17. Hello.i have nose stud ( piercing) .In rules in work is : the only jewellery permitted by law and tis company is a wedding ring and stud earrings.please do not wear any other piece od jewellery watches bracelers long chains etc.as u will be asked remove them.please can u tell me if i have to remove my nose stud?Why stud earring are allow? And no nose stud?Thanks for help

    1. This really depends on the business and where you are located and what third party certification standards are in place. As a general rule, there should be no jewelry wore by food handlers. Rings are a barrier to effective hand washing and also pose an OHS risk of they get caught in equipment. Nose rings and ear-rings can potentially fall into product. They can also be a source of contamination when food handlers touch their nose or ears without washing hands.

    1. Hi Sal, often the covering becomes a greater risk to the product when it falls off. I would always recommend to remove ear-rings completely.

    1. Hi Derik, thanks for your question. You really need to decide within your own food business what is acceptable or not. The main thing to ask is if the item can fall into the food or if it impedes effective hand washing.

  18. Has anyone had issues with fitbits? We have quite a few employees that wear them and I feel it is okay because it promotes health and they are very plain and tightly secured.

    1. Great question Talia. It will really come back to what the legislation and/or customer standards are in your manufacturing country. Even though they are great for a health initiative, I still would consider them just like wearing any other type of wrist jewellery.

  19. i think a person who is working in food processing area must not wear even wedding ring since we are talking about food hygiene.

  20. Ours is under our Personnel Hygiene Policy and is also part of our Quarterly GMP Training. It is monitored by the QA throughout each shift and is documented if it is in conformance or not. This policy also covers Smoking, Strong odors (perfume/aftershave) and atire to name a couple…
    Jewelry of any kind is prohibited from being worn in the production area. This includes
    watches, rings, earrings and bracelets. When visitors are not able to remove
    rings, they shall be required to wear gloves and shall not be allowed to come
    in contact with the product.
    Body Piercing Jewelry:
    Rings and or studs in exposed parts of the body, such as nose, tongues and eyebrows
    is prohibited from being worn in the production area.
    Fingernails shall be kept clean and neatly trimmed.
    The use of any fingernail polish, clear or colored is prohibited. Fake fingernails are prohibited. When visitors do not comply with these
    requirements, they shall be required to wear gloves and shall not be allowed to
    come in contact with the product.

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