Obtaining a food handlers card in California can be a confusing process. But thats where we come in…
We plan to get you in the restaurant as soon as possible, regardless of your local jurisdiction. So don’t bother looking through outdated government websites. Here, you’ll find all of the important information needed to jumpstart your career in the food services industry.
Is a Food Handlers Card Required in California?
In the state of California, just about every county requires employees (part-time, full-time, temporary) that are working for a state-registered food establishment to obtain a food handlers card. Although most states in the U.S. don’t have this requirement, California’s food safety laws are very strict. Go figure…
In July of 2011, a new California law was introduced requiring food handlers throughout the state to obtain a food handler card by taking a food safety training course. Since the new law, every county in the state of California has followed suit.
Important: If you work at a food establishment in the counties of Riverside, San Diego, or San Bernardino – obtaining a food handlers card will be a different process than the rest of California. Because Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernardino already had food handler programs in place prior to the 2011 law, food establishments in those jurisdictions must follow county-specific guidelines. We will breakdown each county’s food handler requirements in sections below!
To comply with California regulations, every food establishment now MUST ensure each of the following:
**For a list of California state-approved food handler course providers, continue reading and refer to the section Where to Get Your California Food Handler Card: Training & Course Providers below.
Simply put, this means that if you are working for a restaurant or any food service in California, you will have to complete a state-approved food safety course. After successful completion of the course, you will then be granted a food handlers card by the course provider.
All new California food service employees are given 30 days from the date of hire to receive and posses a food handlers card. For an example of what that fancy certification will look like at the end of the training, click here (pdf).
Also, keep in mind that all certifications expire three (3) years from the issue date!
Where to Get Your California Food Handler Card: Training & Course Providers
According to California state law, all food related employees MUST receive food safety training from an ANSI-accredited organization unless you are in San Diego, San Bernardino, or Riverside counties. ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institution.
All ANSI-approved course providers will grant you a food handlers card after you have successfully passed their exam (also known as a food handlers assessment quiz).
To save everyone some time, we’ve hand-picked our favorite California food handler training providers:
- Efoodhandlers (Our recommendation)
- US Food Handler
- 360training.com, Inc.
- ACE Food Handler
- National Restaurant Association (ServSafe)
For the complete list of California food handler training providers, simply click here.
What type of employees at the food establishment MUST receive California food handlers training?
All employees directly involved in the storage, preparation, or service of the food must obtain a food handlers card in California. This means pretty much everyone in the facility must receive the training, even the host or hostess! For example:
- Line Cook
- Food Prep
- Kitchen Manager
- Food Runner
- Host/ Hostess who handle food
- Food-truck worker
- Food Delivery/ Storage workers
Who Does NOT need Food Handlers Training in California?
Here’s a list of job titles that are exempted from the new California Food Handlers law:
- Certified farmers’ markets
- Grocery stores (Unionized)
- Licensed health care facilities
- Mobile support units
- School cafeterias
- Restricted food service facilities
- Snack bars located in facilities where the majority of sales are from admission tickets
- City, County, and State detention facilities (jails, juvenile hall, camp, ranch etc)
- Temporary food facilities
- Elderly nutrition programs
** As well as facilities located in: Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Again, these counties play by their own rules. More on that below.
Steps to get a California Food Handlers Card
- Click on this link to select an ANSI-accredited online provider (We always recommend asking the person in charge of your food service which training(s) they accept/prefer) or select from the providers we have listed above.
- Take the training and test online (course details below)
- Once you’ve successfully completed the test you’ll get a certificate from the course provider (not from the county)
- Print out multiple copies of your certification or save the file to your desktop at home. This is just a safety measure, just in case you lose you original California food handlers certificate
- Provide your employer with a copy of your certificate
- Pat yourself on the back. That’s all you need to do in order to get CA food handler certified!
Nearly ALL California food handler certification programs are available online… and are easily accessible through many sources.
The training and course itself can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to complete. But they can indeed take longer if you wish to study and review important information in order to be better prepared for the final exam.
The training/course is followed by a 40-question multiple-choice quiz on all things food preparation and safety. In order to successfully pass the California food handlers quiz, students must answer AT LEAST 30 questions correctly. This means you must get a 75% in order to pass!
Please keep in mind, grade requirements vary depending on which test you take. Most California food safety tests require a 70-80% at minimum.
Are you nervous yet? Well don’t be. Most California food safety courses allow you to take the quiz twice. In fact, training providers like ServSafe and Efoodhandlers allow you to take the quiz over as many time as you’d like. (Also, be sure to take advantage of our practice exams we provided in the section below.)
What is Covered in California Food Handler Training?
Most state-approved California food handler courses will explore and discuss:
- Food Safety
- Food-borne Diseases
- Spoilage/ Temperature Control
- Food Contamination Prevention
- Food Receiving & Storage
- Pest Control
How much does the California Food Handlers Card cost?
Online food safety courses in California range anywhere between $5-10. If you are taking a food safety course that costs more than $10, we strongly urge you to reconsider as there are cheaper options out there. For example, this test from Efoodhandlers costs only $7.95.
California Food Handlers Practice Tests
For your convenience, we’ve put together the best California food handlers card practice tests. We’ve heard from many sources that these tests nearly replicate the questions that you’ll be receiving on the final exam!
Is Your California Food Handlers Card Expired or Lost?
If you lost your California food handlers card, simply contact your course provider and ask for a copy. Always remember to create duplicate copies of your food handlers card.
In California, your food handlers card expires 3 years after the date of issuance. To renew the card, you must sign up for another state-approved food safety course and pass their test all over again! This ensures that everyone in the state of California stays up to date with proper food safety procedures.
Minimum Age Required to Handle Food in the State of California:
- We believe most food handler courses require a participant to be at least 13 years of age in order to take their course but that is not a rule the food code addresses.
State of California Food Handler Qualifications:
- There are no restrictions for individuals to receive food handler cards in the state of CA.
- Employees should be kept from working directly with food if they have specific symptoms or diagnosed illnesses. In this case it would be best for you to consult with your medical provider.
Other Requirements That May Be Helpful:
- Driver’s License and/or Passport
- Good Communication Skills
- Being able to stand long periods of time
- Knowledge of basic food safety
For more information, please contact your Local City Clerk’s office.
San Bernardino Food Handlers Card Requirements
All food-related employees working in San Bernardino county are required to receive food safety training. But unlike the rest of the state – that requires training from ANSI-accredited course providers – San Bernardino requires food-related employees to receive training ONLY from their own Environmental Health Services.
This means that all other food handler cards – even if you have successfully completed their training and examination – are not applicable and are considered a non-acceptable substitute inside San Bernardino county.
San Bernardino food handler card training is accessible via online 24/7. To access the San Bernardino food handler online portal, just click here.
To learn more about the San Bernardino food handler card, please visit our dedicated post that covers everything you need to know including costs, course details, and other requirements.
Riverside Food Handlers Card Requirements
All food workers in Riverside county are required to receive food safety training.
However, unlike the rest of California – that requires training from ANSI-accredited course providers – Riverside county requires food-related employees to receive training ONLY from their training provider. This county-approved training and course provider is known as StateFoodSafety.
This means that all other food handler cards in the state of California – even if you have successfully completed their training and examination – are not applicable and are considered a non-acceptable substitute inside Riverside county.
The Riverside food handler card training is accessible online, anytime, 7-days a week. To access the Riverside food handler online portal, just click here.
To dive a little more into detail about the Riverside food handler requirements, please visit our dedicated post that covers everything you need to know about costs, course details, and other important information.
San Diego Food Handlers Card Requirements
All food workers in San Diego county are required to receive food safety training. But unlike the rest of the state – that requires training from ANSI-accredited course providers – San Diego requires food-related employees to receive training from a specific list of course providers.
Once you successfully complete the county-approved training and examination, you will then be granted the San Diego food handlers card. But keep in mind, once you receive your food handler card, it expires exactly three years later.
To learn more about the San Diego food handler card requirements, please visit our dedicated post that covers everything you need to know about costs, course details, and other important information.