California Food Handler Card

SB 602 requires workers to receive food safety training

Read the bill

The California Food Handler Card law is designed to ensure that restaurant employees receive a reasonable level of training in food safety practices to reduce the potential for foodborne illness. Food handlers must have a California Food Handler Card 30 days from the date of hire.

The cards are valid throughout most of the state and are valid for three years. Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties have pre-existing food handler card programs and are exempted from the state mandate. Each food facility must maintain records documenting that each employee possesses a valid California Food Handler Card that can be provided to local enforcement officials upon request.

How should I direct employees to obtain a California Food Handler Card?

To earn a California Food Handler Card, food handlers need to pass a food handler test with a minimum score of 70 percent. The course and test may be online or via a classroom-style training. Food handlers must maintain a valid food handler card for the duration of their employment.

Managers and shift-leaders can easily register as an instructor with the National Restaurant Association's ServSafe California Food Handler Program to administer the food handler training and test to employees. To register as an instructor, go online at servsafe.com/foodhandler.

Direct employees to foodhandlerusa.com for comprehensive frequently asked questions and to take the ServSafe online training and test on their own. General information in Spanish can be found here. The NRA also hosts a bilingual call center to answer employee questions in English and in Spanish at 866.901.7778.

Who is a food handler?

A food handler is defined by the law as a person who is involved in the preparation, storage or service of food in a food facility. The definition includes most restaurant employees, such as those holding the positions of, but not limited to: wait staff, chefs, head cooks, cooks, bussers, bartenders, hosts and hostesses who handle food and supervisory personnel, such as the general manager or managers. Employees with a valid manager’s food safety certification are compliant with the California Food Handler Card law.

How much does it cost?

The law stipulates that one training course must be available at no more than $15 to ensure affordability and prevent hardship on the food handler.

The law doesn't require employers to pay for an employee’s time and expense to take the training and test unless a food facility provides in-house food safety training during normal working hours, and the training course must be approved for use in another state that has adopted requirements described in Subpart 2-103.11 of the 2001 edition of the model Food Code to comply with the California Food Handler Card law.

How is it enforced?

Local health departments are responsible for ensuring food facilities meet their obligations under the law, including ensuring food handlers have a valid food handler card, and keeping records that can be provided to local enforcement officers upon request.

Timeline

Food handlers must obtain a food handler card within 30 days of the date of hire.

Exemptions

Some foodservice employees are exempt from the California Food Handler Card law requirement, including individuals holding a valid manager’s food safety certification such as ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification required by current law; food handlers in temporary facilities; food handlers subject to an existing local food handler card program, such as Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties; food facilities that are subject to a collective bargaining agreement with its food handlers; as well as food handlers who are employed by any of the following:

  • certified farmers market
  • commissaries
  • grocery stores, except for separately owned food facilities
  • 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
  • volunteers
  • snack bars located in facilities where the majority of sales are from admission tickets
  • elderly nutrition programs
  • city, county, and state detention facilities (jails, juvenile hall, camp, ranch, etc.).

A food facility that provides in-house food safety training to all employees involved in the preparation, storage or service of food if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The food facility uses a training course that has been approved for use by the food facility in another state that has adopted the requirements described in Subpart 2-103.11 of the 2001 edition of the model Food Code, not including the April 2004 udpate, published by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
  2. Upon request, the food facility provides evidence satisfactory to the local enforcement officer demonstrating that the food facility training program has been approved for use in another state pursuant to above provision;
  3. The training is provided during normal work hours, and at no cost to the employee.

Take an online training and test

A food handler card can be obtained from the National Restaurant Association's ServSafe California Food Handler Program training and test.

Preview the course.