A food handler's permit, also called a food handler's card; food handlers license or safe food handling certificate, is like a driver's license for people involved in the food service industry. It indicates that the person holding the card has been educated in and can demonstrate knowledge of safe food handling practices. Permits are required by the FDA Food Code and all local health departments because the certification assures that workers are handling food safely.
Who Needs a Food Handler's Permit?
The FDA Food Code states that there needs to be a "person in charge" with a food handler's license on site any time food is being prepared, packaged or otherwise handled. That person in charge is responsible for all food handling practices that take place in the commercial kitchen. Usually, managers and owners are the ones who have food handler's cards. Regular hourly workers are not required to have a food handler's permit, but they do need to demonstrate a working knowledge of food safety.
Obtaining a Food Handler's Card
There are two basic methods for obtaining a food handler's card.
Local Health Department
For anything food-safety and kitchen-safety related, the local health department should be the first place commercial kitchen operators go. The local health department has all of the knowledge of health codes and regulations for their specific area and will have classes and tests available for those seeking a food safety handling certificate.
The internet is another avenue for attaining a food handler's license. There are several sites that offer online courses and tests, but the most trusted online resource in the industry is ServSafe.com. ServSafe has a plethora of food safety information, classes and tests, and ServSafe certification is accepted by most local health departments.
Food Handler's Cards and Health Inspectors
Regardless of where a person obtains their food handler's license, the person in charge when a health inspector shows up will need a valid permit and must be able to answer any and all questions related to food safety. The permit holder will also need to know proper storage temperatures for refrigerated foods, how to properly wash and sanitize utensils, explain how personal hygiene prevents food borne illnesses or any other food safety information or regulations in the local health code. » More on What Health Inspectors Look For