Are you looking for a food handler course to help you get ahead in the food industry? Here are five of the best ones.

Why Proper Food Handler Training is Essential for Food Safety?

According to a study in Communicable Diseases Intelligence, donuts were a cause of foodborne illness in Australia. In 2021, the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Health Department was informed that 11 people fell ill after consuming donuts. The bakery in question primarily sold donuts made on site. Ultimately, the donuts became a source of a norovirus outbreak that affected more than 200 people. Symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea. Eight affected persons had blood in their stool, and two had to be hospitalized.

After months of investigation, it was discovered that a food handler worked while ill and may have been the one to contaminate the donuts. A lapse in hand hygiene and proper food handling procedures may have led to the illness.

This example illustrates why proper food handler training is essential for food safety. Food handlers can spread foodborne illness to others through contact with contaminated surfaces or utensils or before handling food by not washing their hands properly after using the toilet or by coughing or sneezing on food. In fact, a large percentage of restaurant employees do not wash their hands correctly, or at all, while working with food.

Proper food handler training can help eliminate some of these hazards and decrease the chances of spreading disease. Food handler training should cover personal hygiene, cross-contamination prevention, safe storage and cooking temperatures for various foods, and knowing when to report illness. Employees who have received proper training will be better equipped to handle and serve food safely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that each year, roughly one in six people in the United States, that's nearly 48 million, get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses. The CDC estimates that about 31 known pathogens cause these illnesses. Many of these foodborne diseases are caused by improper handling of food by food service workers.

Food handling practices play a critical role in ensuring the safety of food. Every year, numerous foodborne illness outbreaks sicken hundreds or even thousands of people. Many of these outbreaks could have been averted had proper food-handling procedures been followed. the-risks-of-improper-food-handling
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The Risks of Improper Food Handling

When a food inspection was carried out in January by the Springfield-Greene County Health Department in Ohio, they made several startling discoveries. One employee at a barbecue restaurant was found to have placed their phone on a cutting board. The officials reported "mold / dirt / hair accumulation" in the ice bins of another local bar. In the first instance, the employee was immediately instructed to sanitize the cutting board and learn how to handle food. In the second, the ice bins needed to be washed, rinsed, and sanitized.

Since public health and food are closely linked, authorities, globally, are becoming more and more vigilant about restaurant food safety. The most common public health risks include food poisoning, cross-contamination, and spoilage.

The risks of improper food handling can have serious consequences -- both for public health and individual businesses. To ensure Healthy Eating, food inspections are regularly conducted by health officials across the United States one to three times a year. Violators are reprimanded, fined, and regular offenders are even asked to shut shop to put proper food safety protocols in place. When authorities fine food establishments, it could affect business prospects and operations.

The Importance of Food Handler Certification

While all workers in the food service industry play an important role in maintaining a safe and healthy environment, those who handle food directly have a greater responsibility. And food handler certification programs help fulfill this responsibility by providing essential training to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and other health hazards.

Food handler certification programs generally include basic instructions on proper hand-washing, food safety rules and regulations, and basic food handling procedures. In most cases, certification must be obtained under state or local laws. Regardless of the requirements, having employees with a certified food handler program is one of the best ways to ensure that your establishment is taking necessary steps to protect the health of your customers, and in turn improving your business prospects.

Completion of a food safety course helps restaurant businesses by-

  1. Providing employees with the knowledge they need to handle food safely.
  2. Ensuring that employees are aware of potential hazards and how to prevent them.
  3. Helping to create a culture of food safety in the workplace.
  4. Reducing the risk of liability in the event of a foodborne illness outbreak.
  5. It helps businesses avoid costly fines and penalties for non-compliance with food safety regulations. (In some jurisdictions, restaurants may even be required to have all employees who handle food certified.)

A Comprehensive Guide to the Top Food Handler Courses in the U.S.

The requirements for food handlers certification may change from state to state. Some states have mandatory state-wide certification requirements, while others leave it to county rules.

For example, the Arizona Department of Health Services doesn't have a state-wide law for food handler cards. Instead, each of the 15 counties has specific license requirements.

In some states like California, Texas, and Illinois, all food handlers must obtain a food handler card within a certain period of starting work. In other states like New York, only food service establishments like restaurants and catering services must have certified food handlers.

Additionally, some states have specific requirements for the type of training or certification that food handlers must have. For example, some states may only accept certification from empaneled providers, while others may require food handlers to complete a certain number of hours of training.

It's important to check with your state and local health department about their individual requirements. Most state health departments list all their requirements on their websites.

If you plan to start a career in food service or improve your food safety knowledge, nothing's better than enrolling in a food handler course. It will teach you the basics of food safety and handling, including how to prepare and store food properly and prevent cross-contamination.

The number of such courses has multiplied in recent years and it's important to research well before enrolling in one. Luckily for you, we've done the spadework.

Here's our guide to some of the top food handler courses in the United States . . .

Zip Foodhandler

Accepted across the United States -- from New York to Illinois, California, and Nebraska (except Washington), the Zip Foodhandler program offers comprehensive training on safe food handling practices. Here are its features-

  • It's an online course that covers all the basics of safe food handling in seven easy chapters -- from protocols to be followed in the kitchen, best storage practices, to hygiene and cleanliness.
  • The course details the fundamentals of handling food -- how to check raw materials before accepting them from suppliers, rules for storing them properly, food safety methods to follow before and during cooking, how to manage required cooking temperatures, and best serving practices.
  • The curriculum fuses video recordings and visual content with audio narration for a presentation that is interactive and easy to grasp.
  • It has been developed by a teacher-cum-bar owner with over 25 years of experience in designing and leading business seminars, adult learning and training sessions. The curriculum developer has designed many educational webcasts with varied learning and communication techniques, while serving in leadership roles at international software development companies.
  • The course is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Successful candidates receive a food handler certificate that is valid for three years. The course costs $7.95.


ServSafe, administered by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), is a two-hour course for food handlers that can be taken online. It covers responsible food service measures.

  • Based on the FDA Food Code, the course is divided into five segments- Personal Hygiene, Basic Food Safety, Allergens and Cross-contamination, Time and Temperature, and Sanitation and Cleaning.
  • Available in English and Spanish, the examinees must complete each of the sections to be assessed. The assessment requires candidates to take a 40-question test (a non-proctored test with no time limit) and correctly answering at least 30 questions to pass.
  • The course is designed for both front-of-house and back-of-house employees, so regardless of where you work in a restaurant, you can benefit from the course.
This online course is priced at $10. A person who clears the test will be issued a ServSafe food handler certificate.

Learn2Serve by 360training

Learn2Serve is another popular food handlers course that is recognized by many states. It covers similar topics as ServSafe, and if required, offers additional training in areas like alcohol service and allergen awareness.

  • It is an ANAB (ANSI National Accreditation Board)-accredited food handler course.
  • The website allows candidates to select their specific region of work, so that state requirements can be covered.
  • It features engaging games and interactive quizzes.
  • The course covers an overview of food safety issues, regulations, and food safety techniques required to maintain a safe working environment.
  • It also teaches procedures for safe food handling to mitigate the risks of foodborne illnesses.
  • A certificate of completion is issued when candidates complete the course and pass the final exam with at least 72% marks,
The course is available at $8.99.

National Registry of Food Safety Professionals

The National Registry of Food Safety Professionals offers a comprehensive food handlers course that covers all aspects of food safety and sanitation. The course is recognized in almost all U.S. states and offers various types of certification to suit the needs of different food service workers.

  • The Food Safety First Principles for Food Handlers certificate program covers the following- Introduction to Food Safety, Contamination and Cross Contamination, Time and Temperature Control, Personal Hygiene, Cleaning and Sanitizing, and Pest Control.
  • The course is self-paced and narrated, taking approx two hours to complete.
  • Candidates must score at least 70% during the assessment to secure a certificate of completion. (The program allows you to retake the assessment multiple times within 30 days from the date of purchase).
  • The course is accredited by ANSI.
This online program, available in English and Spanish, costs $12.95.


The eFoodHandlers course is designed to develop sensitivity and awareness toward critical food safety concepts.

  • The course covers- The Importance of Food Safety, Health and Hygiene, Temperature Control, Avoiding Cross Contamination, and Cleaning and Sanitizing.
  • This ANSI-accredited course is divided into a six-part video series and includes text-based documentation.
  • It allows you to get your certificate in three formats -- certificate, wallet card, or badge.
  • The training takes 30-75 minutes to complete and is followed by a test. The test can be taken multiple times.
  • The website allows candidates to select a region- or county-specific curriculum.
The course fee begins at $10. which-food-handler-course-is-right-for-you
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Which Food Handler Course is Right for You?

When choosing a food handler's course, it's important to consider a few factors-

  • The course should be accredited by an authorized body and recognized by your state and local health department, as well as by food service employers, to ensure that it meets necessary food safety standards.
  • The curriculum should cover a wide range of food safety and sanitation topics, including proper hand washing, food storage and preparation, and the prevention of foodborne illnesses.
  • It should include a certification exam, provide a certificate upon completion, and be valid for a significant time.
  • The course should be available in a format and language convenient for you, whether online, in-person, or self-study.
  • The course should be of reasonable length -- not too short that it leaves topics uncovered, and not too long that it becomes a burden to study.
  • It should be interactive and engaging -- using multimedia, quizzes, and other elements -- to keep you interested and motivated.
  • The course provider should have good customer support to help you navigate issues or queries about the course or certification process.
  • The course provider should offer continuing education material and updates to help you stay updated with current food safety information and regulations.
  • The cost of the course should be reasonable and affordable.