What is ServSafe?
ServSafe is an educational program that was developed by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). It’s main goal is to educate food service workers about food safety. But it’s not just for members of the NRA – anyone can become ServSafe certified. ServSafe estimates that the average American purchases about 200 restaurant meals every year. They also estimate that nearly 1 million restaurants in the US employ almost 14 million food service workers. A food safety education program is needed to protect the public from foodborne illness.
The National Restaurant Association has over 40,000 members representing nearly 500,000 food service establishments. ServSafe draws on the experience of these members and the recommendations in the United States Food Code for their curriculum. They provide a nationally accredited certificate in food safety that is required by law in many states.
What is ServSafe Certification?
ServSafe certification means that you have sufficient knowledge about food safety to earn one of their certificates. There are four different ServSafe certificates:
ServSafe Food Manager
ServSafe Food Handler
ServSafe Alcohol & Allergens
ServSafe Instructor Tools/DVDS
Earning one of these certificates is a two step process. First you have to learn the subject, then you have to pass the exam. Each certificate has its own courses, textbooks and other materials. Each certificate also has its own exam. Passing their exam is what makes you ServSafe certified. You don’t actually need to use their course materials to become certified. You really only need to pass their exam for ServSafe to consider you as certified. However, some jurisdictions also require proof of training before you are considered certified by your health department.
Many state, county and city governments require food service employees to become certified. Some establishments that serve alcohol are required to have an alcohol certificate. The requirements vary greatly. Some jurisdictions require every employee to have a certificate, while others have no requirements at all. ServSafe is not the only certification program, but they have the most highly regarded certificate in the food service industry.
Food manager certification is required by the most jurisdictions. ServSafe provides the most widely accepted certificate for this requirement. Usually it is required that at least one certified food manager must be on the staff. Sometimes it’s required that a certified food manager must be present at all times food is being prepared or served. A few jurisdictions require two certified managers to be present at these times. Essentially the food managers duty is to monitor the safety of the food and to train the other employees about good food safety practices.
Food handler certification is required by fewer jurisdictions, but when it is required usually all or most of the employees must be certified. ServSafe provides the most widely accepted certificate for this requirement. Typically the employee will have 30 days from the date of hire to obtain a food handler certificate, also called a food handlers card. A food handler is usually defined as an employee who has contact with food or food contact surfaces. Depending on the jurisdiction, some employees such as dish room workers or cashiers may not need to be certified.
Who needs ServSafe Certification?
Many state and local governments require food safety certification if food is being served to people who are not friends or family. Especially if it’s outside of a home or if its for sale to the public. The most obvious place that needs food safety certification is a restaurant. But some jurisdictions may even require a church kitchen or a bake sale to be certified.
Your state may not require certification, but if it does here are some examples of places that will probably need it:
Restaurants; catering services; daycare centers that serve food; assisted living centers that serve food; school or work cafeterias; food trucks or carts; food stands; meat processors; convenience stores that sell cooked food (like hot dogs) and bakeries. Basically any permanent place that sells prepared food.
Usually the places that may not need certification are temporary establishments, volunteer/charity organizations or places that only sell prepackaged food. Check with your local health department to learn the specifics in your jurisdiction.
Here are some examples of places that MAY NOT need certification:
Temporary bake sales; grocery or convenience stores with only prepackaged food; soup kitchens for the needy; food shelves with only prepackaged food; vending machines; potluck dinners and temporary events like gatherings with a picnic or cookout.