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Knowing Your State: How Food Handler Laws Vary

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If you’re a restaurant chain or general food retailer with non-English speaking employees that is looking to expand into new states due to considerable success in your home market, one of the first things you need to take into consideration is the variances in individual state laws when it comes to food handlers.

Different Laws – Different States

Based on the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, powers that are not expressly given to the federal government as outlined by the constitution are in effect reserved for each individual state. Legalmatch.com states that this setup is due to how the U.S. was initially created as a confederation of independent states which manifested in the present day manner of each state dealing with the implementation of specific laws and issues under their individual prerogatives. This helps to explain why there are differing levels of implementation when it comes to aspects related to taxation, food safety, workers compensation, food inspection, limitations on hiring practices as well as a wide assortment of different laws, provisions and regulations that impact the day to day operations of restaurants and other food-related services.

Impact on Food Handling

All business operations in the U.S. that handle food on a daily basis are required by law to have their food handlers undergo a process of training/instruction when it comes to food safety, food hygiene and other related aspects of proper food handling. However, despite the rules required in proper food handling being more or less the same across multiple states, the fact remains that a food handler from one state cannot simply work the same type of job in another state despite already having the years of training and certifications needed when it comes to proper food handling. For example, food handlers in California are required to have a Food Handler Card which is issued by the state as a way of indicating that a person has passed the necessary prerequisites when it comes to knowing the necessary food safety practices. While this card allows them to work in a variety of establishments in California that handle food, this does not confer to them a similar right to do the same job in a different state.

Examples of Differences in Guidelines

One of the best examples of how food handling laws vary can be seen in the cases of California and Illinois. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, California requires food handlers to have a card indicating that they have passed a food safety course. Within California, food service facilities can actually provide the needed food safety courses themselves so long as the training course that is provided actually matches the requirements set by the state regarding the type of training and information that is given to their workers. In fact, Calrest.org explained that California’s food safety training laws are actually quite flexible since it also allows food service facilities to utilize food safety training programs that are not in adherence to local guidelines so long as these guidelines have already been approved by another state. This allows companies that utilize their own in-house training programs to easily provide the necessary training for their workers or show that their workers have already been sufficiently trained based on the requirements of other states. This allows for a greater level of customization on the part of the company since they can combine different types of training into a single course which saves a lot of time when it comes to getting new employees ready for work. The case of Illinois though differs considerably from that of California where Ansi.org explained that food handlers need to attend ANSI-accredited training providers that meet the ASTM E2659-09 certification standard. This means that in that in-house food safety training is not feasible in this case.


Why are Extensive Food Safety Guidelines Needed?

Proper food safety guidelines are an absolute necessity due to the potential dangers that improper training could have on the public at large due to errors in food handling that could very well lead to outbreaks of otherwise preventable food poisoning cases. Over the years, numerous processes have been developed in order to ensure that the handling and storage of food are conducted in a safe and sterile manner. These processes have been developed in response to various types of bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni and a plethora of similar pathogens that can develop in food that has not been handled, processed or stored properly. Cases of food poisoning can range from mild to severe symptoms and can even lead to death.

What is the conclusion?

Based on what has been presented to far, getting food safety licenses for non-English speaking employees is a lot more complex than it seems and, as such, it is recommended that you acquire the services of the Bilingual Food Handlers School certified by ServSafe® to ensure that you can get your employees the right sort of training they need regardless of the state certification process.