News Details

County implementing guidelines for food handler cards

May 9, 2011

A change in the state law requires food handlers employed at restaurants to have a food handler card beginning July 1, 2011, or to obtain a food handler card within 30 days if hired after July 1, 2011.

The state law, as currently enacted though, does not provide clear direction to workers on how to obtain a food handler card, which is leading to confusion in complying with the law.

Presently, only one person at a restaurant, typically the owner/operator or manager, is required to have a food protection manager certification, which is received after taking an all-day training course and passing a test. The test for the food handler card is less comprehensive then that for food protection manager certification, but still provides general food safety knowledge.

"The purpose of having all food handlers at restaurants receive training, pass a test, and obtain a card is to improve food safety by ensuring all workers handling food at restaurants understand the causes of food-borne illness and what they can do to prevent it," said Terry Schmidtbauer, Solano County Environmental Health Manager.

A stakeholder group comprised of members of the California Restaurant Association, California Retail Food Safety Coalition and California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health is actively working to make clarifications regarding food handler training and examination requirements to the law.

These clarifications are included in Senate Bill 303, which is being considered for approval by the state legislature.  In the meantime, these stakeholders are requesting all local enforcement agencies to adopt an educational and notification approach through December 31, 2011 to provide time for the clarifications to be adopted and implemented.

The Department of Resource Management Environmental Health Services Division is following the stakeholders recommended approach as part of its ongoing inspections of the 955 restaurants and food facilities in Solano County affected by this requirement.

“We will be providing education and notification on compliance regarding food handler card requirements to restaurant operators and workers through discussions and informational handouts during our routine inspections, and posting on the Solano County website through December 31, 2011,” Schmidtbauer said.

Additional information regarding the recommended implementation approach and food handler card guidelines can be obtained at by searching for “food handler card guidelines” or by going to