Foodservice Equipment Reports

California Approaches Food Handler Law With Kid Gloves

California’s food-handler training law took effect July 1, and in the week leading up to its official enactment, press reports indicated a general lack of knowledge among operators about the new law.

As of last Friday, food handlers must take basic food safety training and secure a California food-handler card to work in a restaurant or foodservice company. A food handler is defined by the law as a person who is involved in the preparation, storage or service of food in a food facility. The law is designed to ensure all restaurant employees receive a reasonable level of food safety training to reduce the potential for foodborne illness.

Fortunately for operators, back in April, a state association of county restaurant inspectors called for a six-month “slow roll out” of enforcement. Those new guidelines from the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health recommend that enforcement of the law from July 1-Jan. 1, 2012 be limited to “education and notification of requirements for compliance.” The group says the extra time will help it seek a tweak to the legislation to clarify what specific training programs are approved for obtaining food handler cards.

The CCDEH guidelines are not binding, however.  Enforcement of the law is up to local county health departments.

Richard Lee, director of Environmental Health Regulatory Programs in San Francisco, says that restaurant owners and employees in that city shouldn’t panic quite yet. Lee told InsideScoopSF that his department hasn’t yet notified any restaurants. They’re holding off enforcing the law until next January, and awaiting passage of SB 303, which would clean up the language in the previous legislation. “I don’t think there will be a fine,” Lee said. “We’ll just note it as a violation.” If the restaurants still don’t comply, the department will take away the health permit to operate.