We asked 98,426 job seekers about their Food Handler Certification. This is what they told us:
The food handler certification–or safe food manager certification–involves learning the proper techniques for safely handling foods in retail and restaurant settings to prevent foodborne illnesses and food spoilage. Food safety training and certification is required on some level by nearly all states, with additional restrictions in some municipalities, for workers who prepare, handle or serve food to the public. Some employers have their own requirements for employee food safety training and certification to reduce the risk of customer illness.
There are a variety of training and certification programs for a food handler certification. There are two primary types of food safety training and certification – one is geared toward all food service employees while the other is geared toward managers, supervisors and owners of food service establishments. The types of food safety certifications include:
Nearly all states follow the US Food and Drug Administration Food Code, which outlines regulations for food safety training. Under the FDA Food Code, food service establishments are required to have at least person in charge who can prove food safety competency. That competency can be proven, according to the code, with a Certified Food Protection or Food Safety Manager designation.
Many states, or local municipalities, go beyond the FDA guidelines. Some states require all food service workers to earn Food Handler Cards or that food service establishments have a Certified Food Protection Manager on duty when the business is in operation or when food is being prepared.
Some employers, as a way to guard against foodborne illnesses and prevent food spoilage, will have all employees undergo food safety training either in house or through one of the major food safety training organizations.
Food safety certification–whether it’s a Food Handler Card or the Certified Food Protection Manager designation–is earned through taking a food safety training course and passing the related exam. Some states will require the additional step of submitting an application to receive a government-sanctioned food safety certification. Classes are offered in person, and there are many online training options.
The simple steps involved in obtaining food safety certification include:
Ask your employer and research local laws to determine exactly what type of food safety certification you are required to obtain.
Once you understand what certification you need, you can choose the training and exam option that best fits your schedule. Training courses are available online or in person. Courses may take anywhere between a few hours to several days depending on the certification you seek.
Some certification training programs include the cost of your exam while others require an exam fee. Your employer may cover the cost of your training and exam. While each exam is unique, they all draw questions directly from the training. You will either immediately receive your certification or it will be mailed to you.
If your state requires proof of your certification, you or your employer may need to file it with the local health department.
1. “Food Handler Certificate”. National Registry of Food Safety Professionals. Retrieved on January 15, 2020.
2. “Food Safety Manager Certification”. National Registry of Food Safety Professionals. Retrieved on January 15, 2020.
Editorial content last updated: April 2020
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“I wish I would've known how many future jobs this would help me with and how important it truly is to understand food safety.”
“I wish I had gotten my food handlers certificate earlier than I did”
“Make sure to pay attention and focus on the material being learned so that you can understand how important food safety is in the work place.”
“The test is not so difficult but just because you pass doesn't mean you should forget what you learned you will need it in the future”
“its is easy and will help them in the industry better”
“The test requires reading multiple articles and answering questions.”
“It is a simple test about your knowledge on the cleanliness and food preparation for guest served at restaurants.”
All information on this page, including but not limited to price, cost, instructions, descriptions, and the content of a certification course, is presented for informational purposes only, may be an approximation, is subject to change, and may have been generated by third parties. Prior to enrolling in a course for a certification, please contact the proper school or certification administrators for information regarding certification requirements.