Food Safety Certification

In September 1998, the the California legislature voted to approve the passage of Assembly Bill 1978. This bill amends the California Health and Safety Code to establish food handler certification requirements. These requirements are applicable to all food establishments and mobile food prepar- ation units at which unpackaged foods are prepared, handled, or served. Text of AB 1978

Food Safety Certification Requirements for Retail Food Facilities

Food safety is everyone's business. It is especially important for those who prepare and sell food to the public. A new law effective January 1, 1999 requires that every restaurant, deli, food store, commissary, and hot truck that handles unpackaged food employ workers who have basic knowledge of the causes of food poisoning and ways to prevent it. At least one person from each business affected by this law will have to become certified by passing any one of five approved examinations in food safety. Failure to have at least one certified person may result in loss of your health permit. A person cannot be certified for more than one location. The certified person must be employed at the business, but need not be present at all times. Certification must be renewed by passing an approved examination every three years.

The approved tests are as follows:

Food Safety Training - Santa Barbara County
FS&T Fidelity Safety & Training
(805) 434-5687

The ServSafe Serving Safe Food
Certification Examination

National Restaurant Association
250 South Wacker Dr., Suite 1400
Chicago, IL 60606

Experior Assessments, LLC
600 Cleveland Street, Suite 1000
Clearwater, FL 34615
800-200-6241 (updated 7/13/99)

Food Marketing Institute
655 15th St., HW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
ph# (202) 220-0661, fax (202) 220-0876

AAA food Handler Training School
7095 Hollywood Blvd., #488
Hollywood, CA 90028
Contact person: Sung C. Cha (Director)

California Restaurant Association
3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 2230
Los Angeles, CA 90010

Professional Testing Inc.
National Registry of Food Safety Professionals

1200 E. Hillcrest Street, Suite 300
Orlando, FL 32803-4737

Dietary Manager's Association
(offered to association members only)
406 Surrey Woods Drive
St. Charles, IL 60174

These tests are available in multiple languages and offered at many locations around the state. Additional tests may be approved in the future. Read the " Food Protection Manager Certification Fact Sheet" for more information.

Food Handler Card

A Food Handler Card (FHC) is required by all persons who prepare, store, or serve food in a food facility. Food Handler Cards are required to be obtained on or before January 1, 2012 and/or within 30 days after hire date from an accredited training provider. The FHC must be renewed every 3 years. A passing score of at least 70 percent is required. The food handler training course may be offered through a trainer-led class and examination, through the use of a computer program or internet, or through a combination of the two. Food Handler Courses Link

A FHC is not required if employed by the following facilities:

  • Certified farmer's market
  • Commissaries
  • Grocery stores except separately owned food facilities within a grocery store
  • Licensed health care facilities
  • Mobile support units
  • Public and private school cafeterias
  • Restricted food service facilities
  • Retail stores in which a majority of sales are from a pharmacy
  • A food facility that is subject to a collective bargaining agreement with its food handlers
  • 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, pursuant to the Older Americans Act of 1965.
  • Volunteers
  • A food facility that provides an in-house food safety training to all employees must be approved through the Local Enforcement Agency in order to obtain credit for their employees food handler Cards.
  • Food facilities subject to local food handler program requirements prior to January 1, 2009 (Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties)
  California Food Handler Card Guidelines 4-13-11S