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How to Get a Food Handler Permit

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In some states and counties, people working directly with food must have a food handler's permit to do their jobs. These workers include cooks, chefs, servers, bartenders and baristas. To get the card, foodservice workers typically attend a training program that covers the basics of handling food in a sanitary fashion, heating and cooling it to proper temperatures, and other basics that help prevent food borne illness. You'll typically spend less than one day earning the permit.

Government Options

In some cases, your employer will provide food handler training in-house. If not, visit the website of your state or county health authority to get information about upcoming training sessions. The Washington State Department of Health, for example, requires all food workers to get food safety training from their local health departments before they can handle food that is served to the public. Workers are issued a Food Worker card, also called a Food Handler Permit, after they take a food safety training class and pass the State of Washington exam on food safety basics.

Preparation and Testing

Once you determine where the training is available, sign up for it and pay the fee -- typically less than $20. Register for a username and password if the test and training will take place online. Some places conduct in-person training sessions, while others are all Internet-based. In some states, including Washington, you can request foodservice manuals to help you study for and practice the test. If you pass the test, you'll receive a card that's usually valid for several years. If you don't pass, you'll get another chance to re-test at a later date.


About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

Photo Credits

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