For employees

Who needs a California Food Handler Card?

In September 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 602 into law requiring food facility employees involved in the preparation, storage or service of food to have a California Food Handler Card as a requirement of employment.

A California Food Handler Card is issued after successful passage of a training program and test, such as the National Restaurant Association's ServSafe® California Food Handler Program training and test available here.

Am I considered 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.

I am a restaurant manager. Do I need a California Food Handler Card?

An individual holding a valid ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification, such as the one offered in association with the National Restaurant Association's ServSafe product line, does not need a California Food Handler Card. However, if you are a manager without a Food Protection Manager Certification then yes, you need a a California Food Handler Card.

Looking for ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification? Click here.

Managers and shift-leaders can easily 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.

I’m a high school student and only work in a restaurant during the summer. Do I still need a card?

Yes. Regardless of the amount of time you work in a food facility you must possess a California Food Handler Card if you prepare, store or serve food and work in a food facility in California. Unless you work in Riverside, San Bernardino or San Diego counties where pre-existing local food handler programs already exist.

I’m interested in working in the restaurant business but don’t have a California Food Handler Card yet. Does it matter?

As of July 1, 2011, holding a California Food Handler Card is mandatory for employees who prepare, store or serve food, so having one before you begin your job search is recommended. Already having a card may make you more marketable to an employer and it shows a willingness to practice proper food safety techniques.

How do I get a California Food Handler Card?

Obtaining a California Food Handler Card is simple. First, follow the links to servsafe.com/foodhandler to purchase and take the online training for $15. Take and pass the test with a score of 70 percent or higher. Be sure to print your card and provide a copy to your employer to keep on file.

How long will it take to get a California Food Handler Card?

The online ServSafe California Food Handler Program training and test takes approximately two-and-a-half hours to complete.

Why is the government making me take a food safety training program?

Research has shown that learning and practicing proper food safety greatly reduces the spread of foodborne illness. The law was passed to ensure that anyone handling and serving food have an understanding of basic food safety procedures to increase awareness of these safer practices and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Can I take a test on another website?

Approved food handler training courses and tests may be offered through a trainer-led class and test or self-training and test such as the ServSafe California Food Handler Program offered online.

Is my California Food Handler Card good anywhere in the state?

The California Food Handler Card is valid throughout the state. However, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties have existing approved programs, so the state card is not necessary.

I already have a food handler card issued by my county. Do I need a state card, as well?

No. Food handler regulations were already in place in those counties before the state law came into effect. However, if an employee works in San Diego, Riverside or San Bernardino counties, as well as an establishment outside those counties, they also will need California Food Handler Card or should obtain a ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification to satisfy both local and state requirements.

When do I need to have a California Food Handler Card?

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

What if I get a new job?

A California Food Handler Card is transportable and can be taken to a new place of employment. Additional copies of the card can be reprinted at ServSafe.com/foodhandler.

What if I need to take the test in another language?

The ServSafe California Food Handler Program online training and test is available in English and Spanish. ServSafe will offer the program in Chinese and Korean in mid-2011, as well. Check back often for new translations.

I need to take the training but don’t have a computer. What should I do?

Nearly every public library offers access to computers for free and printers for a nominal fee.

How much does it cost?

The fee is $15 for the online ServSafe California Food Handler Program training course and test.

Do I need a credit card to take the test online?

Yes. ServSafe.com/foodhandler accepts all major credit cards.

I paid for the training but can’t take it right now. Can I get a refund?

If you’ve started the course but cannot complete it, you have as many as 60 days after payment to go back and take the course without paying an additional fee. If you’ve paid but haven’t started the training, you have one year to complete the course and test.

How long will the training and test take?

State law mandates that the test offer at least 40 questions. The online course and test are designed to be completed within approximately two-and-a-half hours.

What will be covered by the training and test?

The law requires the course to cover topics such as:

  • foodborne illness
  • time and temperature as it relates to foodborne illness
  • personal hygiene and food safety
  • food contamination prevention
  • cleaning and sanitizing procedures
  • temperature control
  • cross-contamination prevention.
What if I fail? Can I retake the test?

Yes. Online testing is flexible. If you fail the test, you can retake the test immediately. When you retake the online test, there is no additional charge.

I passed the test. Now what?

Once you pass the ServSafe California Food Handler Program training and test, you can immediately print out your California Food Handler Card, as well as a certificate to provide to your employer for your employee file. Hold onto your card in case you change workplaces. While working in the foodservice industry, you should always have a copy of your California Food Handler Card accessible.

I passed the test but lost my certificate and card. What do I do?

There is no fee to reproduce a reprint of your California Food Handler Card. You will need login information to access your card. Click Here.

How quickly do I get my certificate and card after I pass the test?

Your California Food Handler Card is available to print immediately after you pass the online test.

Does my California Food Handler Card expire?

Yes. A California Food Handler Card is valid for three years upon issuance. Food handlers must retake the course and test and pay the associated fees once their certificate expires.

Who regulates the California Food Handler Card?

Local health departments will regulate compliance with the California Food Handler Card law.

What will happen if I work in a restaurant without a California Food Handler Card?

Every county health department will determine its own enforcement acts. Contact your local health department to learn more.

I was trained in food safety in another state. Is that training compliant with the law?

Food safety training obtained in another state is compliant with California law if the training was provided in-house at a food facility that offers training and meets the following standards:

  • The training course has adopted the requirements described in the same version of the FDA Model Food Code that California follows
  • The current food facility can provide 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.
  • Training is provided during normal work hours, at no cost to the employee.
If I take a food safety test in-house will I be compensated for the time to study for and take the test and training?

If your employer provides in-house training that is accepted by the law then your employer must pay for your time during the training and test, as well as paying for the test itself.