California FAQ's for Employees

Who needs a California Food Handler Card?

In September 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 602 into law requiring anyone who is involved in the preparation, storage or service of food in a food facility to obtain a California Food Handler Card as a requirement of employment. A California Food Handler Card is issued after successful passage of a training program and assessment, such as the National Restaurant Association's ServSafe® California Food Handler Program available here.

Am I considered a “food handler” in the state of California?

You are considered a food handler if you work in a food facility and perform any duties that involve the preparation, storage or service of food in a food facility.

I am a restaurant manager. Do I need a California Food Handler Card?

If you are a manager and ServSafe Food Protection Manager certified, this will serve as adequate coverage and not require you to also obtain a ServSafe? Food Handler Card. Contact your local health department for requirements.

I’m a high school student and only work in a restaurant during the summer. Do I still need a card?

Yes. Regardless of the amount of time you work in a food facility you must possess a California Food Handler Card if you prepare, store or serve food and work in a food facility in California. Unless you work in Riverside, San Bernardino or San Diego counties where pre-existing local food handler programs already exist.

I’m interested in working in the restaurant business but don’t have a California Food Handler Card yet. Does it matter?

State and County laws vary – some require a valid Food Handler Card before you start working. However, having a card before you apply may increase your chances of being hired and shows a willingness to practice proper food safety techniques.

How do I get a California Food Handler Card?

Obtaining a California Food Handler Card is simple. First purchase the ServSafe® Food Handler Program online. Take and course and pass with a score of 70 percent or higher. Print you Certificate of Achievement and Card. Provide a copy to your employer to keep on file. Many employers will also require you to keep a copy for your records.

How long will it take to get a California Food Handler Card?

The ServSafe Food Handler Online Course and Assessment takes about two-and-a-half hours to complete. You will be able to print your card immediately upon passing the assessment.

Why am I required to take a food safety training program?

Research has shown that learning and practicing proper food safety greatly reduces the spread of foodborne illness. State and county law were passed to ensure that anyone handling and serving food have an understanding of basic food safety procedures to increase awareness of these safer practices and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Is my California Food Handler Card good anywhere in the state?

The California Food Handler Card is valid throughout the state. However, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties have existing approved programs, so the state card is not necessary.

I already have a food handler card issued by my county. Do I need a state card, as well?

No. Food handler regulations were already in place in those counties before the state law came into effect. However, if an employee works in San Diego, Riverside or San Bernardino counties, as well as an establishment outside those counties, they also will need California Food Handler Card or should obtain a ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification to satisfy both local and state requirements.

When do I need to have a California Food Handler Card?

Current employees who prepare, store and serve food must obtain a California Food Handler Card on or before July 1, 2011. Food handlers hired after June 1, 2011 have 30 days after the date of hire to get a card. If you are employed on May 31, 2011, you must have a California Food Handler Card on or before July 1, 2011.

What if I get a new job?

A California Food Handler Card is transportable and can be taken to a new place of employment. Additional copies of the card can be reprinted at

What if I need to take the test in another language?

The ServSafe Food Handler Online Course and Assessment is available in English and Spanish. Check back often for new translations.

I need to take the training but don't have a computer. What should I do?

Nearly every public library offers access to computers for free and printers for a nominal fee. Additionally there are class room options available as well. Check with your employer or local health department for a list of available training times.

How much does it cost?

The fee is $15 for the ServSafe California Food Handler Online Training and Assessment.

Do I need a credit card to take the test online?

Yes. accepts all major credit cards.

I paid for the training but can't take it right now. Can I get a refund?

If you've started the course but cannot complete it, you have 60 days to finish the course without paying an additional fee. If you've paid but haven't started the training, you have one year to start the course. Refunds are not available.

How long will the ServSafe Food Handler Online Course and Assessment take?

State law mandates that the assessment contain at least 40 questions. The online course and assessment are designed to be completed within approximately two-and-a-half hours.

What will be covered by the training and test?

ServSafe Food Handler covers:

  • foodborne illness
  • time and temperature as it relates to foodborne illness
  • personal hygiene and food safety
  • food contamination prevention
  • cleaning and sanitizing procedures
  • temperature control
  • cross-contamination prevention

What if I fail? Can I retake the test?

Yes. Online testing is flexible. If you fail the test, you can retake the test immediately. If you are taking an instructor led class you will need to check with your instructor before taking the class.

I passed the test. Now what?

Once you pass the ServSafe California Food Handler Course and Assessment, you can print out your card, as well as a certificate of achievement to provide to your employer for your file. Hold onto your card in case of a change in workplace. While working in the foodservice industry, you should always have a copy of your California Food Handler Card.

I passed the test but lost my certificate and card. What do I do?

There is no fee to reprint your ServSafe Food Handler Certificate/Card .You will only need your login information to access your certificate/card. link

How quickly do I get my certificate and card after I pass the test?

Your California Food Handler Card is available to print immediately after you pass the online assessment.

Does my California Food Handler Card expire?

Yes. A California Food Hander Card is valid for three years upon issuance. Food handlers must retake the course and assessment and pay the associated fees once their certificate expires.

Who regulates the California Food Handler Card?

Local health departments will regulate compliance with the California Food Handler Card law.

What will happen if I work in a restaurant without a California Food Handler Card?

Every county health department will determine its own enforcement acts. Contact your local health department to learn more.

I was trained in food safety in another state. Is that training compliant with the law?

Food safety training obtained in another state is compliant with California law if the training was provided in-house at a food facility that offers training and meets the following standards:

  • The training course has adopted the requirements described in the same version of the FDA Model Food Code that California follows.
  • The current food facility can provide evidence satisfactory to the local enforcement officer demonstrating that the food facility training program has been approved for use in another state pursuant to above provision.
  • Training is provided during normal work hours, at no cost to the employee.

If I take a food safety test in-house will I be compensated for the time to study for and take the test and training?

If your employer provides in-house training that is accepted by the law, your employer must pay for your time during the training and assessment, as well as paying for the course and assessment itself.