Obtaining a food handler's certificate requires taking a food safety course and passing an assessment. The minimum grade to pass the assessment depends on the authority that conducts the test or the jurisdiction where the prospective food handler intends to work.
State health and environmental services departments, ServSafe and Environmental Health Testing confer food handler's certificates to individuals who complete requisite course material and assessments. The material for a food handler's course typically covers basic food safety, cross-contamination, hygiene, cleaning and sanitation. The aim is to give individuals the skills and knowledge necessary to handle food for public consumption safely.
Some counties, such as Maricopa County, Arizona, allow prospective applicants to take a food handler's course and the assessment online. The applicant then prints a certificate of completion and must take the certificate, any fees and a form of identification to the appropriate authority. County- or state-issued food handlers certificates are not always valid in other states.
ServSafe and Environmental Health Testing offer food handler's certificates that are recognized nationally or in specific states, such as California and Illinois. Both companies also offer food handler's courses and assessments in English, Spanish and Simplified Chinese. The ServSafe food handler's course and assessment requires approximately two to three hours to complete in one sitting.
Environmental Health Testing allows applicants 30 days to complete any online food handler's course and assessment, but applicants must finish the 40-question assessment in a single sitting.