SB 602 requires, every California food handler who is involved in the preparation, storage or service of food in a food facility has to take a California state-certified food handler course and pass an authorized test.
The SB 303 bill made technical changes to the Food Handler Card Law requiring training providers to be accredited through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The questions and answers below reflect the requirements of the California Food Handler Card Law:
Q1: What type of positions fall under the California Food Handler Card Law?
A: Most restaurant positions are subject to the California Food Handler Card Law. Food handlers are defined as individuals involved in the preparation, storage or service of food in a food facility. However, certain statutory exemptions exist including food handlers in:
- temporary food facilities (food booths),
- certified farmers’ markets,
- commissaries, grocery stores (including convenience stores),
- licensed health care facilities,
- mobile support units,
- public and private school cafeterias,
- restricted food service facilities,
- retail stores where a majority of sales are from a pharmacy,
- venues with snack bar services in which the majority of sales are from admission tickets (excluding any area in which restaurant‐style sit‐down service is provided),
- certain food facilities with approved in‐house food safety training (see D1 and D2),
- food facilities subject to a collective bargaining agreement,
- Any city, county, city and county, state or regional facility used for the confinement of adults or minors, including, but not limited to, a county jail, juvenile hall, camp, ranch, or residential facility,
- An elderly nutrition program, administered by the California Department of Aging, and
- food handlers subject to the local food handler programs in the counties of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego and food handlers holding a valid Manager’s Food Safety Certificate pursuant to current food safety law. The definition therefore effectively includes most restaurant employees such as those holding the positions of, but not limited to: wait staff, chefs, head cooks, cooks, bussers, bartenders, host/hostesses that handle food, beverage pourers (including alcoholic beverage pourers), and supervisory personnel, such as the general manager or managers (unless they are certified under the existing food managers certification program). The law applies to both salaried and hourly food handlers. For more information, see also D1.
- Learn about foodborne pathogens, cross contamination, cold and hot food safety, and best practices to prevent foodborne illness.
- Food Manager ANSI Certification: $99.00
- Food Handler ANSI Training: Only $7.00!
- HACCP Training 16hr/4hr/1hr
- 10% OFF: Promo "TRAIN10OFF" at Checkout
Q2: How do I get a California food handler card?
A: You must complete an approved training course and pass a test with a score of 70 percent or higher to obtain your California Food Handler Card.
- 1) From now until January 1, 2012, you can obtain a California Food Handler Card from either a food manager protection certification organization or an organization with an ANSI accredited food handler program.
A list of approved organizations can be found at: ANSI Accredited Food Handler Programs: http://tinyurl.com/accreditedfood
Food Manager Protection Organizations: http://tinyurl.com/foodmanagerprot
- 2) After January 1, 2012, you must get a California Food Handler Card only from an organization with an ANSI accredited food handler program, which are listed at: http://tinyurl.com/accreditedfood
Q3: Do I need a new California food handler card for every restaurant where I work?
A: Generally, no. The California food handler card is valid for three years from the date of issuance and belongs to the individual food handler it is issued to, regardless of whether the food handler changes employers during that period or whether the food handler works for two or more different restaurants concurrently. However, food handlers in Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties are subject to pre‐existing local food handler card programs and pursuant to the California Food Handler Card Law, food handlers in these three counties are exempt from the California Food Handler Card Law while working in these three counties. However, if a food handler works in one of these three counties, and also works in a restaurant outside one of these three counties, then they would have to obtain a California Food Handler Card for the restaurant outside these three counties in addition to being subject to a local food handler card requirement for the three counties.
Q4: Is my California food handler card valid anywhere in the California?
A: A California food handler card is valid everywhere in California except in Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties which have pre‐existing local food handler card programs. Consult with the local enforcement agencies in each of these counties to obtain information on their local food handler programs and requirements.
Q5: Where can I take the food handler training and test?
A: The California Food Handler Card Law states that food handler training courses and tests may be offered through a trainer‐led class or online. Whichever method is used, the approved training course must be completed and the individual must pass a test with a score of 70 percent or higher to obtain the California Food Handler Card.
Q6: I already have a food handler card issued by my county, which is Riverside County. Do I need a California food handler card as well?
A: Not if you only work in Riverside County. Food handlers who work in Riverside, San Bernardino counties need to obtain a county‐specific food handler card because those three counties have preexisting local food handler programs. However, if an employee works in Riverside or San Bernardino counties, as well as an establishment outside those counties, they also will need a California food handler card as it is required in all the other counties in the state.
Q7: I work in a restaurant in San Diego County. Do I still need to obtain a a San Diego food handler card?
A: No, San Diego County recently approved changes to accept the Statewide California ANSI training.
All food handlers are now required by San Diego County Code to possess either a valid food handler card issued by a county-authorized food handler training school or a County of San Diego food handler test administered by the current food safety manager who has passed a state-approved food safety certification exam.
In addition to the County’s food handler training requirement, there is also a state requirement for a certified food safety manager. State law requires each food facility to have at least one owner/employee that has passed a state-approved food safety certification exam. Each certification is applicable to only one facility. These certificates are valid for 5 years and must be renewed.
Source: San Diego County – Department of Environmental Health
Q8: I have a food handler card issued from another state. Are food handler cards from other states compliant with the California Food Handler Card Law?
A: If the food handler card was issued by another state, the food handler card would not be valid in California.
Q9: I am a restaurant manager and have a valid Manager’s Food Safety Certification pursuant to existing California law (CalCode). Do I need a California food handler card?
A: No. Anyone who holds a valid Manager’s Food Safety Certification doesn’t need a California food handler card. However, if you’re a manager without the Manager’s Food Safety Certification and you are a food handler, you’ll need a California food handler card.
Q10: I’m interested in working in the restaurant business but don’t have a California food handler card yet. Do I need to obtain one prior to employment in a restaurant?
A: You must obtain a food handler card within 30 days of hire. The law states that food handlers hired prior to June 1, 2011 must obtain a food handler card on or before July 1, 2011. Food handlers hired on or after June 1, 2011 have to obtain a food handler card within 30 days after the date of hire.
Q11: I’m a high school student and work in a restaurant part‐time and only during the summer. Do I still need a card?
A: Yes. Regardless of age or the amount of time working in a restaurant, food handlers must have a valid California food handler card for the duration of employment as a food handler.
Q12: I currently work in a restaurant. Am I responsible for taking the food handler course and test, or is my employer responsible for offering me the food handler course and test?
A: As a food handler, you are responsible for taking the food handler course and test. This is required by the California Food Handler Card Law for food handlers. Food handlers must obtain a valid California food handler card from an organization as specified (see “Only accredited Food Protection Manager Certification organizations can offer valid Food Handler Cards” section above) and maintain a valid food handler card for the duration of his or her employment as a food handler. The food handler card is issued to the individual food handler taking and passing the test, and is valid for three years from the date of issuance, regardless of whether the food handler changes employers during that period.
Q13: What documentation is my employer required to keep?
A: Under this law, employers are responsible for maintaining records documenting that each food handler employed by them possesses a valid food handler card. These records must be provided to the local enforcement officer upon request. An example of proper documentation would be for the employer to maintain copies of the food handlers’ cards on file and have them available upon request by the health inspector.
Q14: Is my employer responsible for paying for my food handler card course and test under the new law?
A: No. The California Food Handler Card Law does not require employers to pay for the food handler’s training and test. The food handler card is the property of the restaurant employee, which allows the employee to change jobs without having to obtain a new food handler card.
Q15: I just obtained a California food handler card for my current restaurant employer. However, what if I get a new job in another restaurant, do I need to take the test again?
A: No. A California food handler card is issued to the individual food handler and can be used wherever the food handler works, whether it is a new restaurant or multiple restaurants concurrently. The only exception is for the three exempt counties of Riverside and San Bernardino. A California Food Handler Card is not valid in these three counties as food handlers working in the three counties are subject to preexisting local food handler programs. Consult with the local enforcement agencies in each of these counties to obtain information on their local food handler programs and requirements.
Q16: Do volunteers who serve food at soup kitchens, food banks or volunteer run restaurants have to have a California food handler card?
A: No, volunteers are not required to obtain a California food handler card. The law only applies to food handlers who are “hired” by subject food facilities. Food handlers who work in a food facility on a regular basis and benefit financially from the business are not considered volunteers (e.g., family members/owners).
Q17: What if I only work part‐time (e.g., one day a week) or am a temporary employee (e.g., for two months), do I still need to obtain a California food handler card?
A: Yes. The law applies to all subject food handlers irrespective of whether they work part‐time, full‐time or are a temporary employee.
Q18: I am a non‐union employee, but work at a restaurant that is unionized. Do I have to obtain a California food handler card?
A: No. The law provides that if a food facility is subject to a collective bargaining agreement with its food handlers, then the food facility is exempt (meaning that all food handlers employed by that food facility are exempt).
Q19: I work at a demonstration booth serving samples of food at a grocery store. Do I have to obtain a food handler card?
A: No. If you are an employee of the grocery store or demonstration company, then you do not have to obtain a food handler card as grocery stores are exempt and demonstration companies are not permitted as food facilities.
Grocery stores are exempt from the California Food Handler Card Law. Grocery store is defined as a store primarily engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fresh meats, fish, and poultry and any area that is not separately owned within the store where food is prepared and served, including a bakery, deli, and meat and seafood counter. “Grocery store” includes convenience stores.
Q20: Is a food handler that is required to have a food handler card also required to have the card in his/her possession while working?
A: No. The employer is required to maintain records verifying that the employee(s) has a valid food handler card.
Q21. I work in a food warehouse and stock prepackaged non‐potentially hazardous foods. Do I need to obtain a food handler card?
A: If you are handling food items, such as hand‐stocking shelves, and are employed at a non‐exempt food facility (e.g. restaurant, bar, deli food facility, sports stadium, or food court), then you are required to have a food handler card. However, if you work in a food distribution center or commercial warehouse that is not permitted as a retail food facility and you are handling only case goods which will be distributed to retail facilities, you do not need to obtain a food handler card.
Q22. I work in a hospital cafeteria. Do I need to obtain a food handler card?
A: No. Hospital employees are not required to have a food handler card.
Q23: I work at a hotel and as a guest service, cookies are prepared for guests and we deliver them to the guests’ rooms. Do I need a food handler card?
A: The law applies to places that are permitted as a food facility. While hotels, themselves are not permitted as food facilities generally, certain parts or locations within a hotel are separately permitted as food facilities. So, if you are employed at the hotel’s restaurant, work in the kitchen that provides room service to hotel guests, or if the facility is permitted as a food facility (e.g. restaurant, bar, cafeteria, deli), then yes, a food handler card is required because these are permitted as food facilities.
- California Food Handler Card Law Guidelines (Word Doc)
- SB 602 – California Food Handler Card Requirements (PDF)