The Importance of Your Food Handler's Permit

May 7th 2016

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Many states, towns, and counties now require that food handlers and other servers have permits in order to work. Many of these permits are a simple matter of a background check but others involve a test to ensure that food service workers are knowledgeable about health and safety issues. If your area requires a permit, be sure you have one before you start to work. In the case of alcoholic beverage permits, you may need to ensure that your driving record is free of drunk-driving charges.


How to Get a Food Handler's Permit

The procedure for obtaining a food handler's permit is fairly straightforward for most places. You will need to pass a test of your knowledge regarding the nature of foodborne illness and how to best prevent its spread. Most often these tests are available online through your state's governmental websites. Do a quick google search to find the site. Your search might be something like: "food handler permit Georgia."

There are also private schools which offer food handler's certificates. Make sure that these programs are accredited for your state and local area. Also, be sure to compare the cost of these private programs against what is offered by your state. There is no need to pay too much for such a relatively simple certification.

The National Restaurant Association has an Educational Foundation that helps food service workers obtain the necessary knowledge, skills, and paperwork to work in their field. For a nominal fee, they operate a website which offers state-accredited training for all 50 states in the United States.

It is advised that you make sure you know exactly what you need prior to spending money on a course and permit. Also, if your state offers testing and training it is likely that you will pay less and be assured of the same valid credentials. Always check your local state's agencies to see if they provide online or other testing.

Check Your Local Requirements

Your individual town or county may have specific fees or requirements which may not apply state-wide. For instance, in Texas, you can use the state's website and receive a $10 permit, which is the state's basic requirement. However, if you live in Hays County you will need to take your online certification to the local health department and pay and additional $15 to work in that jurisdiction. The local authorities will then provide you with their own certificate. If you live in one county but work in another, be sure that you are certified for the county where you are employed.

Food handlers in Oregon are required to qualify for a food handler's permit, which they can obtain online through the state. Once you are hired to work in a restaurant or for a catering business, you have 30 days to pass the test and receive your certificate. Once you have an Oregon certificate, it is valid for three years. If you change jobs and need a new copy of the certificate, you can go back to the website and print a new copy.

It is always best to make sure your permit is in full compliance with your specific area and be aware of its expiration date. This information should be available through whatever agency you use to acquire the certificate. If not, consult with your manager, who should be able to direct you to the appropriate resources.

What Food Handlers Need to Know

The state tests generally require knowledge of foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella, E. coli, and noroviruses. When you study for the test, you will learn about the symptoms which arise from either chemical or biological food contamination. It's important to know this, in case you or one of your coworkers becomes ill. If you can recognize that an illness may have come from your place of business, you can work to prevent further incidents of infection.

You will be tested on various ways to prevent the spread of bacteria in the food preparation area. According to food service professionals, one key area to focus on is hand washing, which is vital when halting the spread of harmful bacteria. The testing materials for many permits will review the best methods for hand washing, including how much time to spend scrubbing the hands with soap. The test also covers cooking and storage temperatures. It is just as important to keep frozen and refrigerated food stored at a certain temperature as it is to make sure it's cooked through well enough to be safe.

While it is possible that you will learn information that is not directly applicable to your position in the restaurant, it is vital to learn as much as you can. If you are aware of all of the precautions needed to ensure a healthy and safe food preparation area, you can alert others in case there is a problem. Further, if you are a manager, or move into a managerial position, you will need to know a lot about how to set and maintain standards for food safety.

Finding a Job as a Food Handler

You can find food service jobs in a variety of establishments; "full-service restaurants; limited-service eating places; special food services, such as food service contractors, caterers, and mobile food services; and drinking places."

When it comes to food service, you can start out as a server and gradually move your way up to a food service manager. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average food service manager makes roughly $51,000 a year! If you're aiming to be a cook, you can make between $23,000 to $37,000 depending on which establishment you work for.

A career in food service is fun and rewarding. Starting it off with a simple food handler's permit is a necessary and educational first step towards a successful career.


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