So you have decided to obtain an unsecured business line of credit for your restaurant and it has been approved. It’s now time to set up your food and beverage business. There’s a crucial regulatory process you have to complete first. Restaurants are required to obtain various permits and licenses. Chief among them is a safe food handling certificate. This is done to ensure that an F&B establishment is providing a safe experience to its customers.

All restaurants are required to have a food handler’s permit in the United States. However, the requirements to obtain one vary from state to state. The local health department does enforce the regulation so you run the risk of being fined if you operate your business without a safe food handling certificate.

 

What is a Safe Food Handling Certificate?

It is important to understand how handling food is a big responsibility. This is why in the United States, a business that processes, handles or serves food is required to obtain a safe food handling certificate. It’s also referred to as a food handler’s permit, food handler’s card or license. These terms all mean the same thing.

A safe food handling certificate is best described as an official document that demonstrates to health inspectors that you have undertaken a food handler training course approved by your state and that you’re knowledgeable about food safety. This includes having an understanding of how food can make people sick after becoming contaminated due to various factors, how to keep the equipment clean, how to store food properly, etc.

It’s a relatively simple process to obtain a food manager certification. You have to take an online course and upon successful completion of that course, you’ll be given the certificate. The online course covers subjects like personal hygiene, allergens, sanitation, food safety and temperature.

Since there are no federal regulations around food manager certification, the requirements for obtaining one tend to vary by state and county. Some may even require at least one certified food protection manager to be present at the F&B establishment at all times. Some may mandate that every employee who comes into contact with food complete a food handler training course and obtain the certificate.

 

How Much Does a Safe Food Handling Certificate Cost?

Depending on the requirements in your state, some or all of your employees will be required to take a food handler training course. It’s only upon the completion of the course that a certificate will be issued. Fortunately, the costs involved are not that high.

The ServSafe Food Handler course is a one-stop solution to meet this requirement. It’s accepted in all 50 states so your local health department will be satisfied if your business possesses a certificate from ServSafe. The online exam has 40 questions and there’s no time limit to answer them. Successfully completing this course requires at least 75 percent of the questions to be answered correctly.

It costs only $15 and that includes the online course and the final exam. Do keep in mind, though, that while you may retake the course, the certificate is contingent upon passing the exam. You’re only allowed to take the final exam up to three times.

 

How to Get a Safe Food Handling Certificate in All 50 States

Since the requirements tend to vary from state to state, we have put together a comprehensive guide that explains how to go about obtaining a safe food handling certificate in all 50 states. Some states require food handlers to get their permits within 60 days of being employed while others only give 30 days. Look up your state in this list to get a clear idea of the requirements you’re supposed to meet.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Alabama

Alabama doesn’t require common food workers at a restaurant to obtain a food manager certification. The state only requires kitchen supervisors/managers and head chefs to obtain the permit. A registered food establishment is required by the state to have at least one person with a food handling certificate present at all times.

Typical kitchen employees such as line cooks or servers aren’t required to obtain the certificate. However, Jefferson and Mobile Counties require all food-related employees at an establishment to take a food handler training course. They should get their certificate within 21 days of being hired.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Arizona

Arizona also requires at least one employee who holds a food handler’s permit to be present at the establishment. Passing ServSafe’s exam also satisfies the Certified Food Manager requirement of Maricopa, Pima, Cochise, Coconino, Yavapai, Mohave and Yuma Health Departments.

When a new business is started, it has 90 days to ensure that a certified food protection manager has been employed. The same time limit is also provided after the change in ownership of the business or if the certified manager leaves the business. The certificate has to be renewed every five years.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Alaska

Except for the Municipality of Anchorage, regulations in Alaska mandate that food establishments should have at least one food protection manager on staff per shift. All food workers in Anchorage need the food worker card. The municipality has its own online test for food workers which costs $10. Employees who don’t handle food or clean dishes or utensils don’t require the card.

Food workers are required by the state to obtain a food worker card within 30 days of being employed. Cards issued by the State of Alaska are not valid in the Municipality of Anchorage. The Food Worker card costs $10 and is valid for three years.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Arkansas

In Arkansas, all employees at an establishment that are involved in the preparation, storage or service of food are required to get a safe food handling certificate. The state’s health department requires that a food safety training course is taken and the examination is passed. ServSafe’s course is accepted by the state so the cost to obtain one is $15.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in California

California mandates that all food facilities that prepare, handle or serve non-prepackaged potentially hazardous food always have an employee or owner who has passed an accredited food safety certification examination. The certification has to be renewed every five years. After Senate Bill 303, all food handlers are required to have a food handler card within 30 days of their date of hire.

The requirements are different in Riverside and San Bernardino. All employees are required to have a safe food handling certificate within one week of being employed by an establishment in Riverside county. All food-related employees are required to have one. StateFoodSafey is the only approved training provider and its certification needs to be renewed every two years. The Riverside food safety training program is available through the county’s website and it costs $27.

San Bernardino County does not accept safe food handling certificates from any other counties or companies. It only accepts a food handler card that’s issued by the San Bernardino County Environmental Health Services. The test and training are available online for $22. The card has to be renewed every three years.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Colorado

Colorado requires employees who are involved in preparing, storing or handling food at an F&B establishment to obtain a safe food handling certificate. The state also made it mandatory in 2019 for a retail food establishment to have a certified food safety manager on the premises as well. ServSafe’s program is accepted by the state.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Connecticut

Every food establishment in Connecticut is required to have at least one qualified food operator in a supervisory position who has passed a test from an approved testing organization like ServSafe. This employee must have a full-time position in which they direct and inspect the performance of food service workers. A food establishment is required to have a qualified food operated employed within 60 days of a new business being started.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Delaware

As per Delaware law, the Person-in-Charge at an establishment is required to demonstrate Food Safety knowledge for the business to comply with the 2013 Food Code. ServSafe’s Food Protection Manager Certification meets this requirement. Food handlers are not directly required to take training as the Person-in-Charge is required to train the employees.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Florida

A state-approved food handler certification is required if the employee’s job includes food preparation, display or storage. ServSafe meets that requirement. The food handler’s card has to be renewed every three years. The state also requires each licensed establishment to have at least one certified food protection manager. The manager must be hired within 30 days of a new business being started.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Georgia

Georgia requires all food service establishments to have at least one manager or the owner who has completed a food safety certification training program approved by the health department, such as ServSafe. The establishment has 90 days from the date of initial permit issuance to employ a new manager.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Hawaii

Food establishments in Hawaii must have at least one employee present who has a safe food handling certificate during normal hours. The state’s Department of Health offers food handler level classes at no charge. The classes are designed to provide participants like cooks, chefs, pantry workers, waiters and waitresses, stewards and more with a basic understanding of foodborne illnesses and how to implement procedures to ensure safe preparation of food. An ANSI accredited course like ServSafe meets this requirement as well.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Idaho

Idaho is an outlier among states in that it doesn’t have anything in its food safety laws that mandate typical food workers to obtain a food handling certificate. All common employees such as cooks and servers that handle unpacked foods and are not in a supervisory position are not required to obtain any sort of certification.

What the state does recommend is that all workers in a food establishment take the Idaho Food Safety Exam. There’s no charge for the exam but in order to pass it, one has to get a score of at least 75 percent. The resulting certification is then valid for five years.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Illinois

The food safety laws in Illinois are a bit stricter compared to other states. All food-related employees, both part-time and full-time, are required to have a safe food handling certificate. What this means is that anyone who works for a food establishment in a food handling capacity must have passed a food safety course approved by the state.

ServSafe’s course meets this requirement. Employees at an establishment have 30 days from the date of hire to obtain the food handlers card. Those who already have a Certified Food Protection Manager are not required to obtain a food handler’s card.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Indiana

Indiana’s food safety laws mandate that at least one person per establishment must possess a safe food handling certificate. It doesn’t require all food handlers at the restaurant to be certified. As long as the establishment has at least one employee with the requisite certification, it meets the state’s requirements. All ANSI-accredited courses such as ServSafe are accepted.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Iowa

Common kitchen employees are not required to have a food handler’s card at retail food establishments. The state does mandate that there should be at least one person at a food establishment who has a Food Manager’s Certificate. That same person must remain accessible by text, phone or email when they’re not present at the location during the hours of operation. ANSI-certified Food Manager programs, like the one offered by ServSafe, meet the state’s certification requirements.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Kansas

Kansas also doesn’t require common restaurant employees to obtain a safe food handling certificate. However, Leavenworth County and the city of Wichita do require the certificate. It requires all employees who handle food to have a food handler card issued by the City of Leavenworth. Classes are available online through StateFoodSafety.com.

Wichita also mandates that all persons working in a food service establishment must have a safe food handling certificate. ServSafe’s course is approved by the city. Once the certificate is obtained, the employee must take their printed certification along with a photo ID to a local Wichita Health Department. The department will then grant them an official Wichita food handler’s card.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Kentucky

No food handlers card is required for common restaurant employees by the state by some counties like Fayette County to set their own rules. It requires all employees in a restaurant to obtain a food handler’s card even though one is not required by the state. Lexington, Kentucky has a similar requirement. Anyone who is involved in serving unpackaged food to the public must obtain a Lexington food handler’s permit. The tests are only conducted at the local Environmental Health Office and no online courses are available in the county. It costs $23 to obtain the permit and it’s good for three years.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Louisiana

Louisiana doesn’t require a conventional food handler’s card but there are certain regulations that business owners should be mindful of. It requires that at least one person in the establishment must have a Food Manager’s Certificate. Establishments are also required to post a Food Safety Certificate which isn’t the same thing as a Food Manager’s Certificate. It actually needs to be supplied before the state certificate can be obtained.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Maine

Common restaurant employees do not require a food handler’s card in the state of Maine. A Food Manager’s Certificate is mandatory for at least one person in a food establishment. There’s no other requirement for staff at a restaurant involved either in preparing or serving unpackaged foods to the public.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Maryland

Maryland is also among the states that don’t require common restaurant employees to have a food handler’s card. Once again, at least one person is required to have a Food Manager’s Certificate. The idea with this being that if one person in the staff has this certificate, they will be able to pass that knowledge on to the other employees.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Massachusetts

Massachusetts currently doesn’t require common employees at a restaurant to obtain a food handler certification. Like many other states, it does require the establishment to have at least one person with a Food Manager’s Certificate. This employee will be the designated Person in Charge. If they’re not present during operating hours, an alternate Person in Charge has to be assigned. The alternative doesn’t require certification but should be knowledgeable in food safety.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Michigan

Michigan is also among the states that don’t require common restaurant employees to obtain a safe food handling certificate. It only requires that at least one person in the food establishment must have a Food Manager’s Certificate. The idea is that the manager would be able to share safe food handling knowledge with fellow employees.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Minnesota

No food handler’s card is required for common kitchen employees in the state of Minnesota. State law does require that all food establishments must have one full-time employee that has completed a Food Manager Certification program. A certified food manager has to be hired within 45 days of a new food establishment being opened.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Mississippi

Existing food safety regulations in Mississippi don’t mandate those restaurant employees involved in serving or preparing food to obtain a safe food handling certificate. The same requirement of having at least one person with a Food Manager’s Certificate does apply, though. The state requires this person to complete 8 hours of training before testing.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Missouri

The state of Missouri doesn’t have a food handler’s card requirement but many counties do. They include Cass, Jackson, Independence, Kansas City, Clay and Platte Counties. No other country has this requirement. They’re part of the Regional Food Handler Reciprocity Agreement which means that the county will accept food handler cards issued in any of the other counties without requiring the holder to pay a transfer fee.

Cass County requires that foodservice and kitchen employees obtain a food handler’s card within 30 days of being employed. StateFoodSafety’s course is the only course that’s approved by the county and it costs $26. Jackson County has a similar requirement for employees but it only accepts the course from TAP series which costs $24.95. No other course is accepted. Applicants have to pass the final exam with a minimum 70 percent score.

Independence County requires all food handlers to have a food handler’s card. StateFoodSafety and ServSafe Starter are the only two online courses approved by the county. Once the course is completed, applicants have to visit Independence City Hall with their printed certificate and photo ID to get the permit. There’s a separate $25 fee for the county-approved certificate.

Kansas City’s regulations state that anyone involved in the handling of unpackaged food products or handling food that’s prepared and served to the public should ideally attend a food safety course. The food code provides establishments with two options. They can either have a certified food service operations manager present at all times during business hours or if they don’t have a certified manager, at least 80 percent of the food handler staff are to obtain a three-year food handler card from the KCHD upon passing a food handler course through KCHD or one of its approved providers.

Clay County requires any person who is involved in food preparation, handling, dispensing or service to the public to have a valid safe food handling certificate. Food handlers need to obtain this certificate within 30 days of being employed. Clay County Public Health Center conducts classes each month. Certifications are also accepted by StateFoodSafety. Platte County also accepts certifications from StateFoodSafety.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Montana

Montana currently does not require individuals at a food service establishment to obtain a food handler’s card. The state’s only requirement is that the establishments must have at least one certified food protection manager on staff.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Nebraska

Typical food workers like servers, line cooks, etc. aren’t required to have a safe food handling certificate in the state of Nebraska. The state only mandates a certification for employees in a supervisory position. A supervisor at a restaurant will be required to pass a Food Managers course that’s approved by the state. The law requires that at least one person with a Food Managers Certificate must be present during business hours.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Nevada

There is no state-wide requirement for employees at a food establishment to have a food handler’s card, but there’s one exception. Clark County mandates that all food workers must have a safe food handling certificate. Applicants who want one will need to complete testing at a Southern Nevada Health District location as the county doesn’t recognize any online course providers. The food handler certificates issued by Clark County will expire after one year so food workers are required to retake and pass the food safety test annually.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in New Hampshire

New Hampshire is also one of the states that don’t require individuals to obtain a food handler’s card. However, there are 15 self-inspecting cities and towns in the state that do require individuals working in a restaurant to be certified. The best way to go about this is to simply contact the health department in your local New Hampshire jurisdiction to obtain the most relevant information regarding certification.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in New Jersey

Employees working at a registered food establishment in New Jersey aren’t required to obtain a safe food handling certificate. However, common kitchen employees like servers and line cooks are required to obtain a certification in some counties. The city of Newark is one of them. It requires all kitchen employees that handle unpackaged foods to obtain a Newark food handler’s permit. ServSafe’s course is accepted. Some cities in Bergen County also have this requirement.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in New Mexico

The New Mexico food handler’s card is mandatory for all food-related employees working at a state-registered food establishment. New employees are required to obtain the food handling certificate within 30 days of being employed. However, these rules don’t apply in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. The state requires employees that are involved in the preparation, storage or service of unpackaged foods to obtain the food handler’s card. The state accepts certificates from ANSI-accredited organizations like ServSafe.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in New York

Typical food workers at an establishment are not required to obtain a safe food handling certificate by the state of New York. The state law only dictates that there must be at least one person present at the establishment at all times who has a Food Managers Certification.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in North Carolina

There’s no North Carolina food handler’s card requirement for employees at a restaurant. Like many other states, North Carolina only requires that restaurants should have a Certified Food Protection Manager on their staff.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in North Dakota

Common restaurant employees in the state of North Dakota aren’t required to obtain a food handler’s card. Some counties like Burke County have their own regulations. All food handlers in Burke County in addition to Bottineau, Kenmare, McHenry, McLean, Renville, Sheridan and Ward Counties are required to obtain the food handler’s permit. The ServSafe food handler course is approved by all of these counties.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Ohio

There’s no need for an Ohio safe food handling certificate as the state doesn’t require common food employees to obtain one. However, Ohio County requires all employees at a food establishment to obtain the card. ANSI-accredited courses like ServSafe are accepted.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Oklahoma

Common food handlers at a restaurant don’t need to obtain an Oklahoma food handler’s card as the state doesn’t require one. Moore and Norman are the only cities in Oklahoma that do require the certificate. New employees that handle unpackaged food in these cities must get their food handling certificates within 30 days of being hired. The cities only provide offline courses which cost $5.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Oregon

All food-related employees working at a food facility in the state of Oregon are required to have a safe food handling certificate. Training and examination must be completed within 30 days of a new employee being hired. Oregon only accepts food handlers’ cards issued by its approved course provider Oregon Food Handlers. No other online or offline course provider is accepted.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Pennsylvania

No Pennsylvania food handler’s card is needed for common restaurant employees. The state’s only requirement is that food establishments must have a certified food manager present during business hours.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Rhode Island

Food-related employees at restaurants in Rhode Island currently do not require a safe food handling certificate. The state’s only requirement is that restaurants must have a certified food safety manager on staff. These are the designated Persons-in-Charge during shifts.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in South Carolina

There’s no South Carolina food handler’s card requirement so food-related employees at a restaurant currently don’t need to possess one. The state only requires that at least one employee at the restaurant must be a certified Food Protection Manager.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in South Dakota

Employees at a food establishment in South Dakota aren’t required to obtain a safe food handling certificate. The state’s only requirement is that restaurants must have at least one Certified Food Service Manager on their staff. No food handler’s permit is required for common kitchen employees by the state.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Tennessee

Tennessee also doesn’t require food-related employees at an establishment to possess a safe food handling certificate. Like many other states, Tennessee also doesn’t have strict requirements when it comes to foodservice employees.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Texas

Every county in Texas mandates that all food-related employees at an establishment must have a food handler’s card from a state-approved provider. New employees must obtain their certificates within 60 days of being employed. Food handler cards obtained outside the state of Texas aren’t valid unless they’re from an ANSI-accredited provider like ServSafe.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Utah

Employees that are involved in serving, preparing or handling food at not only restaurants but even food trucks in Utah must have a safe food handling certificate. It must be obtained from a state-approved provider. ServSafe’s online program is accepted by all Utah health departments and is approved by all counties.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Vermont

There’s no Vermont food handler’s card requirement imposed by the state. It only requires restaurants to have a Certified Food Protection Manager on staff. There’s no other requirement for common kitchen employees.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Virginia

Much like many other states with lenient regulations, Virginia doesn’t require common food workers at an establishment to obtain a food handler’s permit. However, like many other states, it’s the only requirement is that restaurants should have a food manager on staff, this is particularly meant for employees in a supervisory position.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Washington

Every county requires a Washington food handler’s card for all food-related employees. New employees have 14 days after they’re hired to obtain the permit. It must have been obtained within the state of Washington. All first-time food handler’s cards issued in Washington expire after 2 years. Food Worker Card is the only approved training provider by the state of Washington. No other online or offline provider is accepted.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in West Virginia

All food workers in West Virginia need to obtain a county-approved food handler’s card. The requirements are a bit stricter compared to other states. The process of getting a West Virginia food handler’s card primarily depends on the county where it’s being sought. The local health departments offer complete details about the process in each county.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate Requirements in Wisconsin

No Wisconsin food handler’s card is required for food employees as the state doesn’t impose such a requirement. Once again, the only mandatory requirement by the state is that restaurants must have a Certified Food Manager present during business hours.

 

Safe Food Handling Certificate requirements in Wyoming

Wyoming is also one of those states that don’t require a safe food handling certificate for food-related employees. Since January 2019, the state has mandated that every food establishment must have a Certified Food Protection Manager present at all times.

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Adnan Farooqui | New York-based Adnan Farooqui has considerable experience of working with both small brick-and-mortar and online businesses to help them grow. His expertise includes content marketing, affiliate marketing and online lead generation. He has a bachelor's in English from Rutgers University.