The July 1 California Food Handler Card law compliance deadline is nearing, as more than 900,000 affected foodservice workers seek foundational food safety training.

The law, SB 602, was authored by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and enacted Jan. 1 to create a statewide standard for safe food handling practices in California’s restaurants. It requires food handlers to undergo basic food safety training and secure a California Food Handler Card by passing an exam with a score of 70 percent or better.

The law was designed to ensure restaurant employees receive a reasonable level of food safety training to reduce the potential for food-borne illness. Food handlers must provide a copy of their cards to their employers, who are required to maintain files to present during the health inspection process upon request.

The law defines food handlers as employees “involved in the preparation, service, or storage of food.” Enforcement officials have clarified the definition to include most restaurant employees, including, but not limited to: cooks, waitstaff, bussers, bartenders, hosts/hostesses, beverage pourers, chefs, and supervisory personnel, such as the general manager or managers who handle food, according to guidelines published in April by the California Retail Food Safety Coalition (CRFSC), the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health (CCDEH).

“Enforcement agencies will wait to issue penalties until the new year, instead spending the rest of 2011 educating restaurants during health inspections,” CRAPresident and CEO Jot Condie says. “But it’s still crucial that restaurant operators know about that law and have a plan in place to prepare their staff.”

The National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe California Food Handler Program fulfills the requirements of the law and includes a suite of options for employees to obtain a card, both online and in print for classroom learning environments. Employees can take the training and test online in English and Spanish for $15 at

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