Food Safety

California Food Safety: Reviewing Food Safety Training in California

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Trust20 Contributors • 7 minute read

California is home to a vibrant food scene–and a whopping 14% of all full-service restaurants in the United States! Because of this, food safety in California is critical to public safety.

Thankfully, the Golden State’s legislature takes food safety seriously. The California Retail Code, also known as the CalCode, was signed into law in 2006 and most recently updated in January 2024.1 The CalCode is unique because even though it follows the model of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Food Code, it does not directly incorporate any part of its guidance.2

Not familiar with the specifics of the CalCode? That’s okay! Read on for all the details you need to set yourself up for success. 

Comparing the FDA Food Code to the CalCode

Does California require food handler training?

Does California require food allergy training?

Does California require Food Manager Certification?

Why should I choose Trust20 for my food safety credentials in California?

Comparing the FDA Food Code to the CalCode

The FDA Food Code sets federal guidelines for food safety. It provides the country with “a framework of uniformity and consistency of the latest science-based best practices in retail food establishments.”3

These regulations impose responsibility on suppliers, operators, managers, and food handlers to prevent foodborne illnesses. The regulations also include provisions for employee health and hygiene, food temperature controls, equipment sanitation, and cross-contamination.

Additionally, the FDA Food Code addresses requirements for proper handwashing, food allergen awareness, and the use of food additives. It even provides guidance on the design and maintenance of food facilities and how to respond to food emergencies.

The CalCode covers these types of regulations as well. However, California takes things further than federal regulations by including requirements for food handler training.

Does California require food handler training?

Yes, the CalCode requires anyone involved in food preparation, storage, or service to obtain a Food Handler Card within 30 days of the hire date.8

This requirement has a few exemptions, including people who work in food booths, school cafeterias, and healthcare facilities. Food handlers in Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties are also exempt because they must take training programs offered explicitly by their respective county health departments.6

How is food handler training different in California?

Most food handler courses only cover topics such as how food spoilage, employee health, preventing cross-contamination, safe food handling processes, cleaning and sanitizing, and pest control.

Additional California legislation requires food handler courses to cover basic allergen awareness and preventing cross contact.

How do I get a food handler card in California?

If you want to work in foodservice in California, you must complete an approved training program and pass its assessment (often referred to as a test or exam). The state only approves programs accredited by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB).9 These trainings can be in person, online, or a combination of both.

Once you have completed a food handler training and passed the assessment, the course provider will issue you a certificate or card. Your employer will need a copy of this certificate, but you should keep the original.

A food handler card is valid for three years in California.

A note for operators

As of January 2024, Senate Bill 476, or the “Food Handler Card Law,” requires employers to pay for food handler courses, and the time their staff spends taking them.

Employers cannot make a food handler card a prerequisite for a position. However, that does not prevent them from being more interested in hiring candidates who already have their food handler card to reduce the expense of onboarding new staff.6

Does California require food allergy training?

In 2019, the Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Act was signed into law to protect people with food allergies from the risks of an allergic reaction.11 The regulation requires food handler training courses in California to include information about safe handling practices for major food allergens. While a separate allergen training program isn’t required, many establishments have moved towards more comprehensive food allergen training for their teams.

“Allergies can pose life-threatening situations in restaurants, and we take them very, very seriously,” says Kathryn Coker, Owner and Wine Director at the Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants. "Each restaurant has its own procedures for training servers and kitchen staff…We ask servers to report allergies of any kind on ALL tickets. The chef must be told about any allergies at the table. Servers should not take it upon themselves to make this decision alone.”

So, while separate food allergy training is not required for all food workers in California, allergen awareness is still a critical part of food safety. If you’re interested in a promotion, you may want to consider taking allergen awareness training to boost your resume and show your manager you’re ready for more responsibility.

Does California require food manager certifications?

Yes, the CalCode requires food facilities that prepare, handle, or serve non-prepackaged, potentially hazardous food to have someone on staff who is a Certified Food Protection Manager (temporary food facilities are exempt).2 The food protection manager doesn’t need to be physically present during all hours of operation, but they cannot serve as the certified individual for any other facility.12

How do I get a food manager certification in California?

State regulations require candidates to pass an ANAB-CFP-accredited exam every five years. Similar to the food handler process, in-person and online options are available. Some counties, like Los Angeles County, require food managers to take an eight-hour training.13

If you are a food facility’s Certified Food Protection Manager, you must keep a copy of your credentials on-premise in case the health department requests it.

Why should I choose Trust20 for my food safety credentials in California?

Trust20 provides the food industry with nationally-recognized food safety resources. Our Food Handler Certificate Training and Food Protection Manager Certification are both accredited by ANAB.

We designed our online-only products to help make training and certification accessible to anyone in the food industry. As a company, we are committed to continuous improvement and routinely update our resources to include the latest in food safety regulations and best practices.

Trust20 also offers group purchasing options that make it easy for operators to track their team’s progress, ensure everyone can learn the same information, and implement cohesive practices in their day-to-day operations.

The Takeaway

California’s commitment to food safety is clear. State legislation recognizes the importance of comprehensive food safety education, from mandatory food handler training to allergen awareness and food manager certification. As an industry, we should follow California’s lead by prioritizing a positive food safety culture in our kitchens and ensuring that every food worker is equipped to help prevent foodborne illnesses.

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  1. OC Health Info: California Retail Food Code

  2. Food-Safety: FDA Food Code Adoption Status in States, Territories

  3. FDA: FDA Commemorates 30 Years of the FDA Food Code to Enhance Safe Handling of Food in a Retail Setting

  4. California Legislative Information: Assembly Bill 418

  5. California Department of Financial Protection & Innovation: Legislative Changes in 2024 for Franchisors

  6. California Department of Public Health: SB 602 - Food Handler Card Requirements

  7. Esters Wine: Esters Wine Shop and Bar

  8. California Legislative Information: California Retail Food Code, Chapter 3. Management and Personnel

  9. ANAB: ANAB - California Food Handler Certificate Program (Accredited)

  10. Legiscan: SB 476: The Food Handler Card Law

  11. California State Assembly Democratic Caucus: Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan and Louis and Joanne Giorgi Urge Passage of Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Act to Help End Deadly Food Allergy Exposures

  12. California Legislative Information: California Health and Safety Code 113947.1

  13. County of Los Angeles Public Health: Certified Food Handler & Manager in Los Angeles County