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How to Get a Food Handler's Card In California

Nick PerryAuthor

You can’t do everything yourself in a restaurant. You need great managers and a great staff to make things run smoothly and remain compliant with local regulations. While quality managers streamline operations, the best manager skills include delegating, scheduling, and ensuring that there’s staff on hand who are certified to handle food correctly. Without those people, your restaurant could risk exposure to fines or closures.

In this article, you will learn about food handler requirements in California, who needs to be certified, and how you can get certified in the state.

California Food Handler's Card

Food Handlers License in California, also known as a California Food Handler Card

What is it and why do you need it?

A Food Handlers License, or a California Food Handler Card, is proof that an employee has completed the necessary training in order to prepare and serve food. The course and test covers how to safely store, cook, and maintain safe temperatures on all foods, plus more food safety rules.

How to get a food handlers license

These licenses are administered by each county, so it’s important to consult with your local public health authority to see what the process is like in your area. However, most counties in California fall under the California Food Handlers Permit process, which involves an online or in-person course and test. For the general California card, students must pass the test with 70% or higher. 

San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties have their own course and test, and their own score requirements. 

What are the food handlers laws?

Every new hire needs to obtain their food handlers license within 30 days of being hired. Food handlers cards are valid for three years, after which time they will need to be renewed in order for a business to stay compliant.

How much does a food handlers license cost?

California state law SB602 mandates that the food handlers test and license not cost more than $15. That way, everyone who works in restaurants can afford to get certified.

License NameCostLink

Food Handlers License

Up to $15 per employee


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What restaurant jobs require a food handler license?

There’s no requirement for regular employees to have a food handler license. However, anyone working in the kitchen who is regularly handling food, like line cooks, sous chefs, and chefs, should have a food handler license. It makes sense for a restaurant manager or chef to be the designed Food Protection Manager, as well, since they’re in a position of authority in the restaurant.

While waiters, bussers, and other staff who come in contact with food don’t need food handlers licenses, it may be a good idea for them to become certified for greater career flexibility and to lessen a restaurant’s liability.

How do I get a food handler’s card in California?

Getting a food handler’s card in California is a fairly easy process. There are many courses, both online and in-person, that will give you the information you need. Once you complete a certification course, you’ll have your food handler’s license.

What are the best options for a food handler’s card in California?

There are many ways to get your food handler’s card in California. These are some of the most popular ways to do it.

  • Local programs: California doesn’t offer an official food handler card certification program, but there are many local organizations that can help you get certified. Speak to a restaurant manager or owner, or Google local programs to find an option near you.
  • Online training resources: 360 Training’s Food Handler Card program is just $9 and is available in most states, including California. The quick program will teach you what you need to know and help you earn certification quickly. There are many other online programs that offer food handler card training for $10 or less, allowing you to complete the entire program online.
  • Other options for food handler cards include:
  • AAA Food Handler: AAA Food Handler offers national training resources, with the ability to focus in on specific states. You can train for Food Handler, Food Manager, and Alcohol Handling through a single source. While AAA Food Handler won’t give you the exam, you can get the training you’ll need to pass in Massachusetts for a far more affordable price than other options.


There’s no requirement for common employees to have a food handler’s card in California. However, many private businesses do require it, and it’s a good idea as a manager to make food handling certification a priority. Getting the certification is easy and can increase job security and lower a restaurant’s liability.

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