Obtaining a Food Handler's Permit

May 7th 2016


If you’re interested in working in the food industry, either in a restaurant or another location, you will need to have a food handler's permit. Anyone who works with manufacturing, storage, handling and service of food or beverages must have this permit in order to be employed. The jobs requiring this card include waiters, chefs, cooks, restaurant supervisors and even bartenders. To get your food handler’s permit, you typically spend less than $50, although the cost varies from state to state.

The high risk of food-borne illnesses is a serious one, but this training decreases that risk for restaurants and businesses. You can’t be too sure when it comes to food handling, so take this training seriously in order to understand safe food handling procedures.

Getting a Food Handler’s Permit

No matter your schedule, getting a food handler’s permit is a fairly easy process. Remember that the requirements to obtain a food handler’s permit vary from state to state, so look up the requirements on your state’s website. Many online programs allow you to learn at your own pace and take the course at your own convenience. Since there is a small fee for obtaining the license, the local health department typically offers the fastest and least expensive option. Call the department to see the days and times when they offer tests for a food handler’s permit. At the health department, you watch a short video and then take a brief test on the topics covered in the video. Make sure to take notes throughout the video and review them before taking the test. With this option, you also should receive an immediate certificate in person and then the permit in the mail.

Finding the Right Program

To work as a waiter or waitress, you need a food handler’s permit, which is fairly basic and easy to obtain through the steps listed above. However, if you are working as a kitchen supervisor or cook, you may need a more specialized training course or a more advanced permit. Always ask your employer about the type of permit that you need in order to find the right program for your job. In some cases, employers offer their own training or may even be willing to pay for the cost of getting your food handler’s permit.

Training Topics

When you take the training course, your program covers basic areas of food safety and handling. You learn basic food safety, which prevents food-borne illnesses and keeps food fresh and contaminant-free. You also learn the basics of personal hygiene, which covers how often to wash your hands, how to protect yourself from food-borne diseases and how to dress appropriately when working around food.

Since many restaurants and food service businesses have to avoid allergens, you also learn about cross-contamination and allergens in order to keep customers safe while eating your products. Since many foods grow bacteria at certain temperatures or spoil if left out too long, your food safety course will also inform you about the time and temperature handling practices for food. Finally, you learn cleaning and sanitation, which can help keep food preparation and cooking areas free from bacteria and safe to store, prepare and serve food.

Applying for Food Service Jobs

Since a food handler’s permit is a requirement for most food-related jobs, you may want to obtain the permit before applying for positions. However, in many areas, you have a 30-day window from the time you’re hired to obtain a food handler’s permit. Always ask your employer or ask your local health department about the state rules and regulations. If you do not pass the test the first time, you may take the test again, but, in this case, be sure to study since multiple tests can be expensive.

If you already have a food handler’s permit when applying for jobs, tell your potential employer that you have this certification. Employers like to hire staff that are already trained and understand the basics of food safety practices. Getting your food handler’s permit is an easy process, so look for programs in your area when considering a food-related career!






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