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How to Get a Food Handler's Card In Massachusetts

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.

Every state has different food handling requirements, and Massachusetts has some of the more lenient food handling requirements in the country. In this article, you will learn about food handler requirements in Massachusetts, who needs to be certified, and how you can get certified in the state.

Does Massachusetts require food handler training?

Massachusetts does not require food handler training for basic employees, although there must be a certified Food Protection Manager onsite (or a designated alternate) on-site at all times that a food establishment is open. Individual cities, counties, or private businesses may have different requirements for food handling.

The Massachusetts food handler certificate demonstrates to employers, employees, and health inspectors that you are qualified to handle food safely and to pass your knowledge on to other employees.

Food handlers are not as qualified as Food Protection Managers, but those with food handler training may have a better chance of climbing up the ranks of a restaurant organization.

What body enforces this certification?

All food and safety regulations in Massachusetts are enforced by the Massachusetts Food Protection Program.

What does the certification protect against?

Food handler certification, most importantly, protects the public health by helping to avoid foodborne illness and disease being released to the public. Secondarily, it protects individuals and businesses against fines and legal action for mishandling food and putting the public at risk.


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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 Massachusetts?

Getting a food handler’s card in Massachusetts 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.

How long does a food handler’s permit last?

In Massachusetts, a food handler’s permit is valid for three years after earning the permit.

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

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

  • Local programs: Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts. 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 Massachusetts. 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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