Friday marks the deadline for California restaurant workers to comply with the California Food Handler Card law that was enacted in January to improve food safety.

The law requires all of California’s 900,000-plus foodservice workers to receive food safety training and obtain a California Food Handler Card. The training can be acquired through the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program.

Once workers obtain the Card, they must provide a copy to their employers, who are required to keep it on file and present during a health inspection process.

Leslie Huffman, vice president of marketing and communications for the California Restaurant Association (CRA), told QSR in an e-mail that the law was passed to give California a state-wide food-safety standard.

“The legislature's intent in passing this law was to create a uniform food safety training law, preempting local governments from creating their own set of laws, which would be challenging and confusing for operators with multiple restaurants in various counties to comply,” Huffman said.

Huffman said other states that have passed similar laws have experienced reductions in the spread of food-borne illness.

Considering the restaurant industry is one of the largest in the state of California, Huffman said, getting all workers trained has been a challenge. But she said the CRA has worked to secure a “modified enforcement period” for restaurants and workers that are unable to meet Friday’s deadline.

“In essence, this allows for an extra six months for restaurants to comply,” she said. “Restaurants should contact their local health departments to see where they stand on the modified enforcement since not all will be operating uniformly.”

Local health departments are charged with enforcing the new law and issuing penalties, Huffman said. Cards are valid for three years and are transferable, she said, which means “the food handler can take it with them if they change employers within the industry.”

New restaurant employees hired after the Friday deadline have 30 days to obtain their California Food Handler Card.

By Sam Oches

Back of House, Employee Management, Food Safety, News, Restaurant Operations