As of Friday, July 1, 2011, California’s 900,000 foodservice workers are required by law to pass a food safety test and earn a California Food Handler Card.
The law was passed in January to create a statewide standard for safe food-handling practices in the state’s restaurants, and to reduce the potential for foodborne illness. Now some restaurants are scrambling to be sure they’re in compliance when the law takes effect this weekend. The California Restaurant Association has made a major effort to get the word out for the past six months, but now the moment of truth draws near.
The new policy requires restaurant workers to undergo basic food safety training and earn a card by passing an exam with a score of at least 70%.
The California Legislature’s intent in passing the bill was to create a statewide uniform standard for the industry, said Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association. “Local jurisdictions were looking to create local standards that would have made it really difficult for operators to comply and would have created a patchwork of standards,” he said. Now everyone will operate under the same rules.
Employees will now be required to pass the test as a condition of employment. They can take the training and test online in English or Spanish for $15 at servsafe.com/foodhandler. Managers and shift-leaders can also register as instructors with the National Restaurant Association, and administer the food-handler training and tests to employees in a classroom-style format.
After earning their permits, workers must provide copies to employers, who are required to maintain files to present upon request during the health-inspection process. If employers are found out of compliance they will most likely face deductions during the health-inspection process, but each local jurisdiction will determine the penalty for non-compliance, Condie said.
California’s not the first state to require food handling permits—a handful of other states have similar laws on the books—but the Golden State often sets the trend for the nation, and has the highest number of foodservice workers in the U.S., so we may see a domino effect with other states soon falling in line.
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