Foodservice Equipment Reports

California’s Food Handler Card Law Kicks In Jan. 1

A new year means a clean start. In the Golden State, Jan. 1 will find health inspectors starting to enforce one of the country’s most comprehensive food safety laws. That’s the official start date for the California Food Handler Card law, which mandates food handlers who work in a restaurant ( or retail food establishment) and prepare, serve or store food, must have a California Food Handler Card to work. Despite the status of New Year’s Day as a holiday, the state says county health inspectors will begin enforcement in restaurants open for business and serving food. The law officially went into effect July 1, but the state and local health departments agreed to hold off enforcement for six months.

The new law requires California’s nearly one million food handlers to undergo food safety training and pass a test to earn a card. In addition, it requires that employers maintain records and provide copies of the cards to county officials during the inspection process. The California Restaurant Association has been publicizing the new law to its members, but its president and CEO Jot Condie, isn’t confident the knowledge is universal. “We’ve executed an aggressive educational campaign using a variety of communication channels, including earned, paid and social media, to ensure operators know about the law and how to comply, yet we know there are still folks out there who aren’t aware,” he said. “Unfortunately they may learn about it the hard way through a health inspection penalty.”

The National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe California Food Handler program fulfills the requirements of the law, including options for training and passing an exam, both online and in print for classroom-style training.

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