The Jan. 1 deadline for enforcement of the new food handler card requirement in California is approaching and restaurant operators should be prepared for health inspectors to ask if their workers are certified.
Under legislation adopted last year, all restaurant and retail workers in California involved in the preparation, service or storage of food must pass a food safety test to earn a food handlers card that ensures that all foodservice workers at least have basic training in food safety. New hires have 30 days to become certified.
Employers must maintain records of the food handler cards and be ready to provide copies to county inspectors during their routine visits.
Jot Condie, president and chief executive of the California Restaurant Association, said the association has been working to educate members about the mandate, but some working in the state’s estimated 90,000 restaurants may not be aware of the rule.
“Restaurant operators are incredibly busy and have hundreds of laws to comply with just to keep their doors open,” Condie said. “We’ve executed an aggressive educational campaign using a variety of communication channels, including earned, paid and social media, to ensure operators know about the law and how to comply, yet we know there are still folks out there who aren’t aware. Unfortunately, they may learn about it the hard way, through a health inspection penalty.”
Foodservice workers in San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties are exempt from the law, as food safety certification requirements existed there prior to the new rules.
The statewide food handler card mandate technically went into effect on July 1, but enforcement was limited to education and notification to allow state lawmakers to tweak the legislation slightly to clarify the requirements.
The clarifications specified that approved training programs be limited to those accredited by the American National Standards Institute.
Enforcement is expected to begin on Jan. 1 under recommendations by the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health, the state’s association representing county health inspectors.
Training is available both online and in classroom settings across the state in English and Spanish. Approved training providers include the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe California Food Handler program, the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals and Prometric.