What is Food Safety?
Food safety is essential for all of us. We need to take precautions when preparing food and storing it to make sure it does not get contaminated and causes foodborne illness.
Food safety includes all processes required to ensure that food is safe during every stage of food processing, including harvesting, processing, storage, distribution, preparation, and consumption. Food safety practice includes several processes during the preparation, storage, and serving of food to prevent foodborne illnesses.
There are four basic food safety steps-
- Always keep your cooking tools, counters clean.
- Wash your hands and food before cooking.
- Keep raw foods away from cooked food to prevent germs from spreading.
- Heat foods to kill germs.
- Keep foods in the fridge to prevent spoilage.
Why Is Food Safety Important?
Safe and nutritious food is necessary for everyone. The World Health Organization states that at least one in every ten people gets sick due to the consumption of contaminated food every year. It is estimated that around 420,000 adults and 125,000 children die due to foodborne illnesses every year.
Food Safety also affects other aspects of food, including food supply and nutrition-
- Food safety results in a lower risk of diseases and deaths due to the consumption of unsafe food.
- Lower financial losses caused by foodborne illnesses, including hepatitis A, typhoid, dysentery, and, diarrhea.
- Food safety practices ensure continuous food supply.
- Less burden on the healthcare system as food safety results in better public health.
- Lower risk of chronic diseases due to unhealthy foods
- Lower risk of nutritional deficiencies
- Higher economic stability
What is a Food Handler Card?
Food workers who work in the food service industry require a mandatory food handler card as proof of completing a food safety course and assessment. Food workers can obtain a food handler card or certificate after completing a food safety training program and assessment approved by a state or county in the United States.
Food handler training courses include basic food safety practices, such as food temperatures, tool sanitization, hand-washing, foodborne illnesses, and allergens.
Food handlers can apply for an online food safety course and exam that can cost between $5 and $30, depending on the state or county you work with.
How To Get a Food Handlers Card?
Food workers need to obtain a food handlers card from an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited institute. Food handlers can find an online course and exam from any ANSI-approved food handler card provider. One option for food workers to obtain the certification for food handlers is from ServSafe, which is one of the popular providers of food handler training programs.
The local public health department also provides in-person food training courses. Food workers can contact their local health services department for more information.
Online courses for food handlers are easy and convenient as food workers can take courses and exams from their smartphones or tablets anytime, anywhere. Typically, online training is provided in several languages such as English, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, etc.
Steps To Obtain a Food Handler Card
A food handler card allows you to legally prepare, handle, and serve food. If you're a restaurant owner or an employee of a restaurant that handles food, it is required to have one in order to protect the public from illness or injury. Although a lot of people may not mind the hassle of getting their hands dirty in some kitchens, most would rather avoid it altogether.
Here are some steps that will help you obtain your food handler card more quickly and easily.
Check the requirements of your state or county
Many states and counties in the US have different requirements for food handlers and food manager certification. Before you apply for a course, check if it is ANSI-accredited and is required by the state health department. For example, many states require only food protection managers to be certified. Check with your local health department to understand the terms and conditions of the food handler training course and exam.
Buy the course
The cost of training for food handler cards varies from state to state. It can range from $5 to $120. Typically, the course fee includes the cost of study materials, assessment, and card. Food handler training is usually for 90 to 120 minutes, and once you are prepared, you can take the exam.
Take the assessment
Once food handlers have completed the training, they can take the assessment that typically includes 40-45 questions. Food workers need a score of at least 75% to pass the test. Food handlers can attempt the test twice before retaking the entire course. Food workers become certified food handlers after scoring the required passing grade.
Get your food handler card
Food handlers and managers can get their food handler cards printed after they have completed their online certification. If you have attended an on-site training course through the local health department, you will receive your certification through the mail. Contact your local health department for more information.
Keep the card handy
Food handlers need to keep their food handler card on display or on-site in case there is a health inspection. Restaurants and food establishments need to display food handler cards of all employees or the food safety manager present on the duty for the health inspectors.
Although many states and counties require only one person in charge to have a card for food safety, safe food handling practices are mandatory for all staff members. Food establishments should make sure that they follow Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan for food safety practices to prevent foodborne illnesses and prevent health inspection fines.
Food Safety Training Providers
Food safety is a big concern for every sector of society, especially in the modern-day. Resources like food-safety training providers can help you meet quality standards and keep your employees on their toes. But which organizations should you trust? Here are some tips for finding the best food safety training providers for your business.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is a federal funded agency that ensures food safety through modern scientific methods. NIFA works with several universities and colleges, private sector partners, and government agencies to manage uninterrupted food supply, educate all food handlers, including consumers, and reduce foodborne illnesses.
NIFA's food handler training programs include-
- food handler training for youth
- food handler course for hard-to-reach and high-risk audiences
- food handler education for commercial and noncommercial individuals
- food handler certification and several train-the-trainer programs
- Haccp Food model testing, implementation, and development
National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)
The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) provides several online food safety courses for individuals working in the retail food service, environmental health, and food safety industry. NEHA provides information and education to effectively prepare, respond, and prevent foodborne illnesses to regulatory and industry workers. NEHA provides food safety study materials suitable for individuals starting their careers in the foodservice industry or experienced professionals.
NEHA provides courses related to the prevention of food safety hazards, the importance of personal hygiene, and safe food handling for food workers working in food processing or food service establishments.
StateFoodSafety offers customized online food safety programs for regulatory agencies, restaurants, and hospitality personnel across the United States. StateFoodSafety provides about 60 training courses, including Food Handler Certification, Certified Food Safety Manager (CFSM), and ServSafe Certification. StateFoodSafety offers online training that covers basic food safety principles, such as the benefits of hand-washing, prevention of cross-contamination, foodborne illnesses, and allergens.
Pacific Open Learning Health Net (POLHN)
Pacific Open Learning Health Net (POLHN) is associated with the World Health Organization (WHO) and offers several free online food safety training courses.
POLHN provides training in-
- Advanced food safety
- Food safety inspection
POLHN offers distance education courses for individuals working in the healthcare industry. POLHN operates around 30 learning centers and has 30,000 students in the South Pacific.
ServSafe is an online food safety training provider that was developed by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). ServSafe focuses on educating individuals working in the foodservice industry about food safety.
ServSafe offers the following certifications-
- Servsafe Food Handler
- ServSafe Food Manager
- ServSafe Allergens
- ServSafe Alcohol
ServSafe certification is one of the most popular food safety certifications and is valid in all 50 states in the United States.