What do your favorite restaurant, the senior care facility down the road, and a college dorm’s dining hall have in common? It’s simple: they all have someone in charge of keeping the food they serve safe from foodborne illness.
Certified Food Protection Managers (CFPMs) are professionals with credentials proving they know the ins and outs of food safety regulations and how to ensure that restaurants, healthcare facilities, daycare centers, and other establishments that serve food are following those regulations. They play a critical role in making sure that customers are getting safe, high-quality meals.
If you’re curious about what it means to be a CFPM and wondering if it is necessary for your position, read on! We’ll cover:
What is a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM)?
A Certified Food Protection Manager is an individual who is responsible for overseeing all aspects of food safety in a foodservice establishment.
This includes monitoring food storage and preparation procedures, managing hygiene and sanitation practices among your team, training staff on food safety protocols, and performing regular inspections to ensure compliance with local health codes.
In addition, they must also be able to detect potential threats to public health, such as pests, cross-contamination, or improper food handling.
Having a Certified Food Protection Manager on staff helps ensure foodservice establishments are following all applicable laws and regulations related to food safety—something that can make or break a business in any industry.
One Johns Hopkins study found that a single foodborne illness outbreak could cost a casual-dining restaurant anywhere from $8030 to $2.2 million in lost revenue, lawsuits, legal fees, and/or fines.
Having trained staff can help protect businesses from these kinds of costly liabilities if something goes wrong with their products or services down the line.
Who Needs Credentials as a Certified Food Protection Manager?
Typically, an owner, operator, and at least one manager who oversees the handling of food are required to have a CFPM. For some areas, this is often called a "person-in-charge" or could just be someone who has supervisory responsibilities and oversees food facilities that prepare, handle, or serve food that is "prepackaged, potentially hazardous, or medium-high risk."
What does that mean? A high-or medium-risk category might include businesses like:
Those that prepare roasted meats, casseroles, gravies, etc
Fast food restaurants
Some retail bakeries
Mobile food establishments (food trucks)
Short-order lunch and breakfast establishments
Those that are considered low-risk are establishments like doughnut shops, bars, and coffee shops.
If you're not sure where your business is categorized, it's worth checking in with your local governing authority. This is especially important for businesses that serve food as an ancillary service, such as hotels and other hospitality businesses, airports, and schools.
Some specific foodservice positions that may need the credential include:
Commercial food service managers
Student housing cafeteria or university dining managers
Anyone who needs to satisfy “Person-in-Charge” regulations
What are the responsibilities of a Certified Food Protection Manager?
Ultimately, a CFPM is responsible for the health and safety of the customers and staff of a foodservice establishment. The FDA Food Code outlines the specific required knowledge and responsibilities of what the FDA refers to as a “Person-in-Charge.” These specific requirements include a “demonstration of knowledge” about key topics.
The demonstration of knowledge component can be met by having Certified Food Protection Manager credentials, otherwise, you will have to demonstrate your knowledge by answering questions asked by the food inspector.
The Food Code also outlines the duties of a Person-in-Charge which you need to familiarize yourself with, even if they are beyond the duties assigned to you by your boss. See below for an overview of the content areas for knowledge and a summary of the duties.
Main Areas of Knowledge:
Personal hygiene of employees and handwashing
Pathogen transmission by sick staff
Time and temperature controls
Major food allergens and the symptoms of an allergic reaction
Maintenance, cleaning, and sanitizing of equipment, food-contact surfaces, and utensils
Procedures for the use and storage of poisonous or toxic materials
Critical control points
Explaining the responsibilities, rights, and authorities assigned by the Food Code to the other staff
Summary of Duties:
Preventing unauthorized personnel from entering the food preparation, food storage, or warewashing areas and monitoring for the risks of intentional contamination
Compliance with code by employees
Monitoring staff handwashing to ensure they are effectively cleaning their hands
Ensuring deliveries are being checked for safety upon delivery
Overseeing employees’ observation and use of time and temperature controls
Informing consumers of risks associated with ordering raw or partially cooked ready-to-eat foods of animal origin
Observing that employees are properly sanitizing and cleaning and are preventing cross-contamination
Training of employees on food safety, including food allergy awareness
Informing employees of their legal responsibility to report information to the person-in-charge about their health and activities as related to diseases that are transmissible through food
Maintaining and implementing required written procedures and plans
How Do I Become A Certified Food Protection Manager?
The requirements for certification depend on where you live. In most cases, individuals must pass a proctored Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) exam that has been accredited by The American National Standards Institute National Accreditation Board (ANAB) and the Conference for Food Protection to become a Certified Food Protection Manager. Some states and/or employers do have additional requirements for training. Always check with your local jurisdiction and your employer to verify what training and/or credentials you need for your specific role.
What is covered on a CFPM exam?
Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) exams are designed to test if individuals have the skills and knowledge required of a Food Protection Manager. Whether you take it online or in person, your CFPM exam will ask questions about:
Food Safety Management Systems
Cleaning & Sanitation
Facilities & Infrastructure
Personnel Health & Hygiene
Legal & Regulatory Compliance.
Questions may be related to hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP), cross-contamination prevention techniques, regulations set forth by the FDA’s Food Code, and staff training requirements.
What is the best way to prepare for my CFPM exam?
Exam preparation will look different for everyone. If you are a long-time veteran of the foodservice industry, you may only need to overcome the nerves that come along with an important exam.
However, if you are new to management–or the foodservice industry in general–you may want to consider taking an online training or finding a class specifically designed for food managers. Some training providers also provide access to learning assessments or practice exams that can prepare you for the CFPM exam experience.
Be aware that some states and/or employers may also require a certain amount of training. For example, New York State and the City of Chicago, have specific requirements for managers to take a training from an approved provider.
While many states do not require training, it is often critical that you pass your CFPM exam on the first try. If you have concerns about passing on your first attempt, taking an accredited training course can help you prepare for the exam experience.
What is covered in a food manager training?
Food manager programs may vary in length and content, but there are some major components any reputable training should cover–making you more confident in your ability to comply with the demands of the FDA Food Code. Read on to learn a bit about each topic!
Food Safety Management Systems
The most important aspect of any food safety program is having an effective food safety management system in place.
Food manager training should teach you how to design and implement systems that are both effective and compliant with regulatory requirements. It should also cover how to identify potential hazards, develop preventative controls, and monitor and document the overall performance of your system.
Cleaning and Sanitation
It's essential for food safety managers to understand proper cleaning and sanitation techniques.
In your food manager training, you should learn about different cleaning and sanitizing methods, including manual, mechanical, chemical sanitizing, thermal sanitizing, dry-cleaning, and steam cleaning. You should also gain knowledge about the best practices for storing different types of chemicals used in foodservice operations.
Facilities and Infrastructure
Having well-maintained equipment and infrastructure is key to ensuring safe food production.
Your food manager training should introduce you to topics such as maintenance programs, facility design and layout considerations, refrigeration principles and applications, water systems hygiene and maintenance, and pest control management. You should also learn how to store food safely (and how to train your staff to do the same).
Personnel Health & Hygiene
This includes proper handwashing techniques, safe and hygienic practices for food preparation and service, as well as how to protect yourself from contamination while on the job.
Food manager training should also cover personal hygiene practices such as avoiding touching your face or hair while working with food, wearing clean protective clothing at all times, and regularly washing your hands during breaks.
Another important topic that will be discussed in a food manager training is environmental controls.
This includes topics such as cleaning surfaces before and after use, safely storing food products to prevent contamination, controlling pests such as rodents or insects through proper sanitation methods, properly disposing of hazardous waste materials, maintaining temperatures for hot/cold storage of foods at safe levels, and more.
Legal and Regulatory Compliance
Finally, a food manager training should cover legal and regulatory compliance topics such as:
- local health department regulations regarding food handling procedures
- federal laws related to food safety standards (e.g., HACCP)
- employee rights & responsibilities when it comes to reporting issues with food safety or handling practices
- liability issues related to violations of local/state/federal laws regarding food safety standards
…and so on.
Understanding these topics is key to ensuring any business remains compliant with applicable laws and regulations while also providing customers with an enjoyable and safe experience.
Make sure you choose a training provider that covers current information, as the Food Code is updated frequently. The 2022 Food Code is the most recent full edition (10th edition) published by FDA, and the most recent update was released on January 18, 2023.
It's important to note that you will not get a certification after completing a food manager training. You will instead receive a “Certificate of Completion” that proves you completed the course. You only get CFPM credentials after passing an accredited CFPM exam.
What do I need in order to take my CFPM exam?
Anyone taking a CFPM exam will need to schedule their testing session with an accredited provider. Some providers host in-person testing sessions, and others host their proctored sessions online.
In either case, you must present your proctor with a valid form of ID that matches the name you registered for your exam. If you are taking your CFPM exam online, you will need access to a computer or laptop with a camera or webcam and microphone and must be able to set up for your session in a private setting.
When Do I Need To Get My CFPM Credentials?
Owners and operators are typically required to have their credentials before their business opens for service.
Most states and employers require that new managers complete their certification and/or training requirements before they start working on-premises.
Once someone has become a Certified Food Protection Manager, their credentials are typically valid for five years.
You should always confirm with your employer and local jurisdiction how long your credentials are valid for–their rulings will supersede all other policies.
How Do I Renew My CFPM Credentials?
Renewing your CFPM certification requires completing several steps that can take a few months to complete, so it's important to start the process fairly early.
Different states and jurisdictions have different regulations regarding certifications, but generally, the only way to maintain your credentials is to take a new CFPM exam.
Why is certification as a Certified Food Protection Manager so important?
Earning credentials as a Certified Food Protection Manager is an essential step to taking on a leadership role in the foodservice industry.
It not only provides assurances that your establishment is meeting all applicable safety standards set forth by local and federal agencies, it also helps protect people from any potential health risks associated with consuming food prepared in your kitchen.
Obtaining these credentials also reinforces trust between customers and your establishment because it demonstrates an unwavering commitment to providing safe and high-quality experiences for everyone involved!