How to Obtain a Food Handler's Permit

May 7th 2016
A food handler's permit, often called a food worker's permit or food worker's card, is a license that gives you the legal right to prepare unpackaged food. This license, or some form of it, is required of all people who work in food preparation, including those who wash produce, slice and prepare vegetables, or regularly come in contact with food-related equipment. The purpose of such a license is to equip food workers with knowledge of food-borne illnesses, cross-contamination, and equipment safety on the job. Different countries have different food handling permits and laws, but in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain, some form of food-handling license or training is required for employees and employers who work with unpackaged food.

Canadian Food Handler's Permits

In Canada, food safety training is usually taken care of by your employer. If you are starting your own business, however, you need to obtain your own licensing. The specific regulations vary in different provinces and territories, but in general, food workers in Canada need to have Food Handler certification, often in conjunction with Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System certification. Training can be provided by many different health programs and educational courses, therefore there are many different -- and equally viable -- licenses and cards.

If you are starting a food handler's job in Canada, your employer is usually responsible for training you personally or sending you through an outside training program. If you seek a license on your own, you should contact Canadian Food Safety Training Inc or your municipal Health Board to learn your options.

Food Handler's Permit in the United States

Each American state has its own food safety training programs and certificates, many of which are available through an online training program. You can opt into a local training program through your employer or the local Health Board, or simply take a Food Handler's test online and have your card or certificate mailed out to you after successful completion.

Although online food handling tests are easy to find and simple to take part in, the certificate or card they issue may not be legally accepted where you live and work. To avoid undue legal ramifications, it is best to enroll in a training program directly with the local health board and keep the card they give you.

Food Handler's Permits in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Food Standards Agency oversees legislation surrounding food handling; but no cards, licenses or certificates are required by food workers. They are, however, required to undergo food safety training and receive proper supervision until they are capable and knowledgeable enough to work on their own. 

Certificates for food preparation and handling are available through locally based educational and health facilities, and once certification is achieved, it does not expire. 


Although food handling certificates vary from place to place, the purpose is always the same -- to protect the worker from harm while using dangerous equipment and to protect those consuming the food from becoming ill. There are standards in each workplace and in each district that pertain to food-borne illnesses, the spread of bacteria and the need for sanitary work stations. Food workers also need to be educated about food allergies so that there is no confusion when it comes to special orders and requests. Food handlers are different from packaged food vendors because they are the ones directly responsible for the quality of the food and the satisfaction and safety of the consumer.

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