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Food Handler Card

If you are a paid employee in a food facility or mobile food facility (catering or produce trucks, carts, etc.) and are involved in the preparation, storage or service of food, you are a food handler, and you need a California food handler card.

You Have 30 Days

Food handlers must obtain a California food handler card within 30 days after being hired by a food facility.

Who Needs a Food Handler Card?

Individuals working in food facilities who are involved in preparing, storing or handling food are required to obtain a California Food Handler Card. This includes food employees that work in restaurants, cafes, bakeries, delis, mobile food facilities, bars, kiosks, and other food facility staff that are not specifically exempt.

Examples of food facility staff required to obtain a California Food Handler Card include:

  • Wait staff
  • Chefs
  • Cooks
  • Bartenders
  • Host/hostesses that handle food
  • Bussers
  • Supervisors and managers
  • Food warehouse staff

How to Get a California Food Handler Card

  • You must take and pass a California food handler card class to get a food handler card.
  • The class must be accredited through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
  • A food handler card is valid for three years from the date of issuance. Food handlers must retake and pass the food handler card class every three years to maintain a valid California food handler card.

Note: Environmental Health & Safety does not offer food handler card classes.


There are a variety of exemptions where a food handler card is not required:

  • Food handlers holding a current and valid food safety certification.
  • Grocery stores, including convenience stores.
  • Public and private school cafeterias.
  • Temporary food facilities.
  • Certified Farmers Markets.
  • Commissaries.
  • Retail stores where a majority of sales are from a pharmacy.
  • Detention facilities run by government agencies.
  • An elderly nutrition program, administered by the California Department of Aging, pursuant to the Older Americans Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 3001 et seq.).
  • Certain food facilities with approved in-house food safety training.
  • Licensed health care facilities.
  • Food facilities subject to a collective bargaining agreement.
  • Bed and breakfast or agricultural home stay facilities.
  • Venues with snack bar services in which the majority of sales are from admission tickets (excluding any area in which restaurant-style sit-down service is provided).

The Employer's Responsibility

  • The law requires employers to maintain records documenting that each food handler employed by the food facility possesses a valid California Food Handler Card.
  • An owner/person-in-charge is required to provide accurate records regarding the status of employee food handler cards at the time of a health inspection.
  • You may be required to submit proof in the form of a current employee work schedule along with a valid copy of their California Food Handler Card.

For all other questions regarding the Food Handler Card law please visit the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health website.

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