What is a Food Handling Safety Certificate?


If you're planning a career in food, most state, local, federal and international governments now require someone on staff to be certified in food handling safety. While it's true that not everyone in a kitchen needs one, obtaining one can help set you apart from the competition when applying for a new job.

The Facts

  • Food safety certification ensures that anyone who has received it has passed a test of food handling safety knowledge as required by law. This includes (but is not limited to): best practices for handling different types of food, safe food handling temperatures, proper sanitation practices, and extensive training in food-borne illnesses and bacteria and how to prevent them.


  • Obtaining your food handling safety certificate requires rigorous training and retention of knowledge regarding current food safety procedures. Although the exact requirements for certification vary from place to place (even within the same state), obtaining your certification from one place will make it easier for you to change jobs within the food service industry. Some countries have international equivalencies to these certifications. Even if you're required to take a new exam once you've changed locations, you may be able to forgo some of the training since you'll already be certified in the basics.


  • As of August 2009, there are various types of food handling safety certificates available. While there are various local, state, federal and international standards for the knowledge required, unfortunately the names of these types are not standardized. Broadly speaking, there tend to be three types: basic food handling safety certification, food safety manager certification and HACCP (Hazard Access and Critical Control Points) management certification.


  • While it may go by different names, a food handling safety certificate is a thing that is internationally recognized and expected. If you are considering a professional career in the global food service industry, you should check with your local governing bodies to see what's required for obtaining your certification.

Time Frame

  • Requirements to obtain your food handling safety certificate vary from program to program. All programs stipulate that a certain amount of time must be spent in classroom or online study before the final test can be administered. More intense programs can take several hours a day over a couple of weeks, while others may be part of a standard culinary school curriculum and take place over a school term. Once obtained, most certificates last a fixed number of years before a refresher course and subsequent test is required, much like a driver's license in some states.

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  • Photo Credit Photo: Brian Treanor
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