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Food Handler License Requirements: State-by-State Guide

Here's how to get your food handler's certification in your State.

6 mins readDecember 21, 2021

What Is a Food Handler’s License?

After taking an accredited course, you and your employees must be examined on what you've learned in food safety. A food handler's license confirms that your business has passed the necessary exams.

Though often referred to as a card or permit, the food certification license gives you and your employees a right to handle commercial food. You need this certificate in order to show inspectors and government officials that your team members are trained.


Food handler certification vs. food manager certification


Food safety and handling consist of both subordinate roles and superior ones. Subordinate employees who work with food need a food handler's certificate. This is both in an effort to train such employees as well as to have them certified by your state.

A managerial certificate, however, offers safety education but as it relates to managerial positions and oversight. The managerial role covers more details about your local laws and foodborne illnesses.


How to get a food handlers permit: cost of certification


Employees, in general, obtain food safety certificates with little to no expense. You can expect to pay $0 to $15 depending on your state and specific field. The credentials required by your managers, however, will cost up to $200, with registrations of $100 being the lower range. In either case, as the employer, you decide if you pay for these fees or if your employees do.


How to get food handler certificate online or in-person


In-person training is an effective way to get hands-on training as a food handler. However, technological advancements make online education flexible. Online courses for food handlers are even becoming popular with the help of three leading, accredited agencies.

ServSafe, State Food Safety, and Learn2Serve are educational options depending on your state. These are independent groups with courses accredited by agencies like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Likewise, government and independent hosts provide live classes that you can attend until you earn your certificate.


How to get food handling license via an accredited organization


When registering for an online or in-person course, be sure to check for accreditation. Food handling can, essentially, be taught by any entity with the knowledge. However, there are national standards that some states mandate. For this reason, state and federal governments approve accredited courses only.

Among your options, classes by the American National Standards Institute and Conference for Food Protection are highly respected.

Alabama - Hawaii

Alabama


Your supervisor, who is considered a person in charge of food handlers, has the only role that needs food preparation licenses in Alabama. However, this excludes Mobile and Jefferson counties which require that all roles handling food have a license.

Certified food manager courses can be found with an ANSI-accredited food safety exam via your health department. After five years, each manager's certificate must be renewed.


Alaska


The Alaska Department of Health issues certificates, which is how you get a food handlers permit, for all food handlers in Alaska. These cards can be issued online or in person and are good for up to three years each.

Each employee has 30 days to acquire theirs, or their right to handle food is revoked. All food handlers, however, need Anchorage accreditations when working in that municipality.


Arizona


The Arizona Department of Environmental Health sets the criteria in which food handlers are certified. How handlers acquire their cards, however, is up to each county. In some districts, certificates must always be on public display and be renewed every three years.

Each county, additionally, is required to accept a food handler's license from any program with accreditation.


Arkansas


You can't operate a food business in Arkansas if you don't have an overseer working alongside your food handlers. Supervisors, however, need a food manager certificate.

This requirement doesn't extend to employees who only need the guidance of their supervisor. Each business ultimately decides if its service workers need certification for food handling.


California


The California Food Handler Card (CFH Card) proves that your service workers are knowledgeable in preparing or serving food in California. Once an employee is hired in California, they have 30 days to study for and then pass an examination hosted by ANSI.

Each card is valid for up to three years. It's important to note that San Diego, San Bernardino, and Riverside don't accept CFH cards.


Colorado


A food handler's permit isn't required for service workers in Colorado. It's the business's decision to make a permit mandatory or ensure that employees have any relevant training.

Nonetheless, it's imperative that you have a manager or supervisor holding a food handler's permit working as an ANSI-certified food protection manager.


Connecticut


Food handlers' training in Connecticut is optional and based on a business's discretion. It's not required by law. In the state, online and in-person training is offered, which includes accredited classes by ServSafe.

One condition to keep in mind is for qualified food operators. Someone involved in operating your food service in the state needs QFO certification. This person must be hired into a full-time role with no less than 30 hours of work each week.


Delaware


Food service establishments in Delaware must have at least one supervisory employee who's a certified food protection manager.

ServSafe and other accredited food safety training programs offer this certification in Delaware.


Florida


Food handling and sanitation practices are educational bases for holding a job as a food handler in Florida. Here, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation provides you with a health department food handlers permit.

A food manager certification is required for all managers.


Georgia


Food handling certification is optional in Georgia. For all hours of operation, however, you need to have at least one food safety manager.

Such a person needs to be present to observe foodservice workers. Managers receive training from the Georgia Department of Public Health.


Hawaii


You only need one employee certified for food handling in Hawaii, but businesses can require that all of their employees have food training.

Free classes are offered by the Department of Health, and your certifications are valid for three years.

Idaho - Montana

Idaho


There are no license requirements for food handlers in Idaho. The Idaho Food Code, however, allows a certified manager to train their employees.

Employees can start by covering the Idaho Food Safety and Sanitation Manual to prepare for the Idaho Food Safety Exam.


Illinois


You have 30 days to train your new food handlers in Illinois. Volunteers and temp workers are the only exceptions.

You must work through the ANSI for certification, as the state offers none of its own. Each employee certificate is good for three years.


Indiana


Though not required to be around, someone at your business needs a food handler's permit in Indiana.

This person is considered a liaison, and their role must be filled within three months if they leave.


Iowa


Food workers in Iowa are not required to have a food handlers license. Still, public food services in Iowa need one professional certified via the food protection manager certification.

It is important that this person specifically holds a managerial role in your business.


Kansas


Food handlers in Kansas can work card-free, but there are differences from county to county.

When a license is required, your permit must be city-issued.


Kentucky


You can operate as a Kentucky food handler without food handler cards.

Regardless, you must speak with your health department for specific requirements as recommended by your county.


Louisiana


One of your employees will need a food safety certificate in Louisiana. Just be sure to position this person as an educator at your business. Only ANSI-approved courses are accepted by the state government.

On your business location, you must then post a state-issued certificate.


Maine


Food protection managers are required at any Maine facility where food is served. It's the business's decision to require that all service workers are also certified.

Only exams that are accredited by the CFP hold ground in this state. There's a 90-day window that businesses have to either certify their first supervisor or a new one when the manager has left.


Maryland


The local health departments of Maryland specify your need for a food manager. Should managers be required to have a food license, their qualifications are accessible online or in-person.

The Health and Human Services Department issues them a photo ID after exams.


Massachusetts


You'll meet Massachusetts requirements when at least one person holds a certified food manager role in your business.

The role must be a full-time position with certifications from an accredited program. Cardholders in Massachusetts need renewals every five years.


Michigan


Temporary food locations can operate without a license in Michigan. Other establishments need a food manager on site.

Both ANSI and CFP-accredited state exams are accepted, which are good for five years before expiration. The actual training can be offered on the job.


Minnesota


Minnesota allows you to operate a business without food handler cards. Your food manager, however, needs at least four hours of training once every three years.

There are nuances based on your county, so be sure to contact your local health department.


Mississippi


Food managers in Mississippi are allowed to hire and then deploy workers without food licenses.

Safety precautions are expected to be set by your food manager, and their oversight covers your entire staff. All managers need a food safety certification.


Missouri


Restaurants in Missouri are governed by counties and individual cities. Overall, neither the food handler nor their managers need a food service certificate.

In some cases, however, a food operations manager needs to be present when a business is open.


Montana


There are no mandates regarding certified food handlers in Montana. Businesses do reserve the right to mandate that their employees are certified.

All managers, which are any superiors, must possess ANSI or CFP-accredited certifications.

Nebraska - Ohio

Nebraska

Your local health department in Nebraska decides on your need for food handling credentials. Online and in-person courses are available for businesses that need licensed employees.

Just keep in mind that regulations regarding food certifications are managed at the county level.

Nevada

Managers at food venues in Nevada must become certified food protection managers. Businesses that are considered to have low-food risks can operate without managerial licensing.

When testing is required, however, exams and classes are administered in person.

New Hampshire

One food manager should be present when food is being served. The programs accepted by the state come from Learn2Serve, ServSafe, and Always Food Safe courses.

Consult with your health department for these areas: Rochester, Salem, Claremont, Manchester, Nashua, Dover, Portsmouth, Keene, Merrimack, Exeter, Concord, Bedford, Berlin, Derry, and Plaistow.

New Jersey

Food managers are mandatory in New Jersey, but food servers can work without certification.

Individual jurisdictions, however, have the right to enforce their own regulations for food safety. Depending on location, some workers need permits, while others need volunteer hours.

New Mexico

You do need a food handler card for your employees in New Mexico. Anyone who comes into contact with food, cooking surfaces, or common utensils needs food handling training.

Food managers must also be present where food is being prepared.

New York

The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets doesn't require food licensing, but it does encourage businesses to get some certifications.

What owners need versus their employees differs from city to city and county to county.

North Carolina

Permits and licenses aren't required in North Carolina. Programs are available if you decide that your employees must be trained and examined.

On the other hand, food managers do need certification. Only an ANSI examination is accepted.

North Dakota

You'll need to confirm with your local health department, but North Dakota does not enforce food handler licenses overall. In many cases, completing an educational course is all you need to certify for food handling.

The state recommends and offers resources found with the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals, State Food Safety, Learn2Serve, and ServSafe.

Ohio

You are required to have a "Person in Charge" certified for food handling within each shift.

Additionally, someone or separate people need to have, together, Level One and Level Two safety training in Ohio. There are no enforced requirements for subordinate workers.

Oklahoma - Wyoming

Oklahoma


The managers of your establishment need food handling certification when leading a foodservice staff. A supervisor must be present at all hours of operation.

Oklahoma gives its cities and counties tremendous leeway regarding their own safety requirements. When food cards are required, they expire for renewal every three years.


Oregon


A food handler card is necessary for anyone who works in Oregon food services. Each employee has 30 days to obtain their certificate, which expires after three years.

The certificate you get in one area of the state is valid throughout the state.


Pennsylvania

You only need a food manager certification for the superior roles you have. The training your managers obtain must be ANSI or CFP-approved.

Once these managers are certified, you need one of them present during all hours of operation.


Rhode Island


Service employees can work without certification. For general safety, managers must be trained in food safety and become certified.

This mandate is only for full-time positions. However, two certified managers are required when you have a staff of more than 10 food preparers.


South Carolina


For each shift, you'll need a certified food protection manager present in South Carolina. You aren't required to train or certify food service workers.

Your employees' credentials, however, must come from an ANSI-accredited program.


South Dakota


In South Dakota, you need at least one certified food manager who has eight hours of training. You can find certifications for your manager via State Food Safety and 360training.

The Restaurant Division of the South Dakota Retailers Association is another certifier.


Tennessee


Food handler cards aren't necessary for workers to prepare food within Tennessee. However, you will need to ensure that one person with certification is present while you're in operation.

The only programs accepted in the state are for CFP certification.


Texas


Whether the employees are full-time or part-time, Texas law requires that they hold a certification for food preparation. You have 60 days to certify each new employee you hire, and their certificates must remain where they prepare food.

Along with service workers, a food protection manager must be present. They must ensure that certificates are displayed.


Utah


You have 30 days to equip a hired employee with their food handler card.

Each food handler has a valid status via their card for up to three years. However, they will only have seven days to renew a card after it expires.


Vermont


There are no mandatory regulations for having food handler licenses in Vermont. Overall, however, your employees need a strong demonstration of food safety.

Each employee needs to correctly answer an inspector's question while knowing what they look for.


Virginia


Only one of your supervisors will need certification when preparing food in Virginia. Though there are no larger requirements for food workers, temporary food services still need a managerial certification.

Training can be found specifically with the CFP for Virginia businesses.


Washington


Your business does need workers with food handling permits in Washington. However, unlike most states, you only have 14 days to get your laborers certified.

Your first card in Washington is valid for two years, and this grows to three and then five years based on seniority.


West Virginia


Don't worry about state-specific certifications for food handlers in West Virginia. The safety procedures of each county, however, are subject to change.

In some counties, workers who are hired to handle food need certification within 30 days of employment.


Wisconsin


Food handlers can prepare food without a certification in Wisconsin. You still need a manager with food handling credentials, however.

Each certificate is good for up to five years, but in many cases, businesses are limited to pre-wrapped foods served as individual meals.


Wyoming


Food handlers don't need licenses when working in Wyoming. However, you will need someone in a managerial role to hold a certification.

This person is, essentially, your first line of communication with food inspectors.

Don't be hesitant to ask questions regarding how your business qualifies as a food service provider. Seek your local health department as each state has particular guidelines that become even more specific at the city and county levels. Preparing your staff isn't just good for expedient, sanitary service.

You also need to confirm that you're following your local laws. Being insured is part of this process. Learn more about this process and how we can help you by contacting us at CoverWallet.

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