In my final blog last month, I promised I would provide more information about food safety training programs offered for foodservice professionals. There are a few different options available to you.
Just last week, I was asked about the difference between all of them. For example, ServSafe has ServSafe Food Handler and ServSafe Manager. The Food Handler program is designed for employee-level positions and includes an assessment, but the assessment itself is not proctored. Whereas the ServSafe Manager program includes a proctored exam that must be passed at a predetermined level to be certified. The question I received was which one would suffice for the food code requirement for knowledge, to which I responded the ServSafe Manager program. Of course, the next question was why the Food Handler program would not suffice, after all it is cheaper to complete and does not require the need to find a proctor. The easy answer is because it does not have a proctored exam; however, to fully understand this, we really need to start with the food code.
Knowledge and certification requirements are spelled out in the FDA Model Food Code and are addressed in two ways. First, Section 2-102.11 mandates the knowledge requirement for the person in charge, which can be satisfied by one of three different methods: having no priority violations during the current inspection; being a certified food protection manager, having passed a test as part of an accredited program; or responding to the inspector’s questions about a variety of identified food safety topics. However, Section 2-102.11 goes on to require that for most foodservice operations, the person in charge must be a certified food protection manager who has passed an accredited test. Section 2-102.20 then goes on to state the way a food handler can satisfy the requirements spelled out in section 2–102.11 and 2-102.12 is to pass a certified food protection manager certification, which conforms to the Conference for Food Protection standards. Of course, each jurisdiction can have different standards, so it is imperative that you check your local requirements. Alaska, for example, not only requires the person in charge to be knowledgeable, but each food handler is expected to have a food worker card within 30 days of employment, which involves a food safety-focused training course, followed by passing an assessment exam.
Whichever you decide, because some jurisdictions have more stringent requirements than the conference for food protection, check with your local health department to make sure they also recognize the exam before you pay for it.
So, who is the Conference for Food Protection? Well, the United States Food and Drug Administration has a memorandum of understanding which recognizes the conference as the organization qualified to develop the standards to promote food safety. The conference is an independent, volunteer-led organization that brings together food industry experts from the government, academics, industry, and consumer organizations to address food safety issues. Several years ago, the conference identified the need to establish a set of uniform national standards to assess food safety certification programs. These standards would provide a basis to assess certification programs and allow jurisdictions (e.g., local health inspectors) to gage the quality of the certification. The conference developed the Standards for Accreditation of Food Protection Manager Certification Programs and maintains and updates these standards, as needed. The conference then contracts the American National Standard Institute to accredit these programs against the standard that the conference has developed.
With these standards in mind, the conference, and more specifically, the American National Standard Institute, works with organizations who would like to offer a food safety certification exam to make sure they meet the standards outlined by the conference. Below are organizations who are currently certified to offer the food safety certification exam and some basic information about the program.