How to Earn A Food Handlers Permit

May 7th 2016

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If you are a food service employee and work with unpackaged food and food-related equipment, then you may need to possess a food handlers permit, also known as a food handlers card.

Why is a food handlers permit required?

The food handlers permit is a certification mandated by state governments in the US. The requirements for getting certified may vary by counties in a state. The general idea behind the certification is to increase your awareness of the proper food preparation and food handling practices necessary to minimize the risk of foodborne diseases, and ensure the safety of consumers. 

What is the process for earning a food handlers permit?

A food handlers permit is fairly easy to obtain. It is issued by state- or county-authorized food handler training schools following a short food handling course. The courses are available online and offline. You can finish the curriculum, take the test, and get your course-completion certificate and permit in one day.

Local health departments act as regulatory bodies for compliance with food handler card law and are a good starting point for information on food handler training schools. Both online and offline courses offer distinct advantages. Taking this short course in a brick-and-mortar environment will allow you to benefit from the experience of an instructor who is present to teach you. Plus, it is an opportunity to interact with other students.

The state-specific online option allows you to complete the course at your own pace, without leaving home. Regardless of which online food handler training school you enroll with, the entire process from registration to getting the food handlers permit in your hands will take less than three hours. Finish the course, take the test, and if you obtain the minimum passing percentage required, you can immediately download and print the certificate and the food handlers permit.

Points worth remembering about acquiring a food handlers permit

  • The first food handlers card that you earn is valid for two years from the date of successful test completion. After that, you will have to renew it by retaking the test. Renewal cards are usually valid for two to three years, depending on state laws.
  • As a general rule, these permits are valid throughout a state; however, certain counties may require you to clear their own training programs or apply for additional registration as a food handler.
  • Interstate validity of your food handlers permit will depend upon factors such as the FDA Model Food Code followed by the states in question. Local health departments are a credible source of information on this matter.
  • You can begin work in an establishment even without a food handlers permit. You will be allowed 30 days to obtain one. It is also possible that you may be required to undergo the course as part of induction training at your new job. With legally accepted in-house training, you will be compensated by your employer for the time you spend studying for the test and taking it.
  • Upon loss or misplacement of the permit, you simply have to log onto the training site and obtain a reprint. It is advisable to take multiple printouts the first time, or if you’ve opted for an in-house test, then take photocopies of the original permit.
  • The course costs are in the range of $10 to $15 and there are no other fees involved. With most food handlers permit training schools, you have the option to pay the fees after you have cleared the test.
  • If you purchase a food handler training course, you have up to one year to complete it.
  • In case you fail to clear the test on your first attempt, most food handler training courses will allow you at least one more chance to take the test again, at no additional charge.
  • You can take the test in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean.



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