skip to content, health centers and clinics, search, accessibility statement

FAQs: Food Safety Certification

Commonly Asked Questions About AB 1978
Food Safety and Sanitation Training, and Certified Examination

What types of food businesses are subject to AB 1978?

- Any retail food business that handles a non-prepackaged food item is subject to AB 1978. Prepackaged foods are those contained in the original unopened container.

My business only sells beverages; am I subject to AB 1978?

- Yes, if at any point, a food item is not in its original unopened container. Food includes any item intended for human consumption, including food, beverages, condiments, confectionaries, and ice.

How often must certification be renewed?

- Certification in California is good for 3 years. Successfully retaking the test is necessary to renew certification.

My certification issued by the testing agency has an expiration date of 5 years. Do I still need to retake the test every 3 years?

- Yes. Some testing agencies have their own "in-house" expiration date, but this is superceded by state law.

What if my only certified employee quits?

- If your only certified person quits, you have 60 days to get another employee certified.

Does the certified person have to be on duty all the time?

- No.

Does more than one person have to be certified?

- No. But many businesses have additional people certified and it is a good practice to have at least one certified person on duty at all times.

Can I take any test to become certified?

- No. It must be one the approved certification exams as specified in the law. These include the following:

  • ServSafe Serving Safe Food Certification
  • The Chauncey Group International Food Protection Certification Examination
  • National Assessment Institute's Certified Professional Food Manager Examination
  • Professional Testing, Inc.
  • Dietary Manager's Association
  • Experior Certified Food Manager

I have a food handler's card from another jurisdiction. Does this qualify as certification?

- No. Certification is based on successfully passing one of the approved tests.

Are non-profit organizations or school cafeterias subject to AB 1978?

- Yes. Any retail facility is subject to AB 1978. Retail means any facility selling or giving away food.

If I have more than one retail food business, can my certification apply to all my businesses?

- No. Each certification is good for only one business, so each separate site must have its own certified individual who can serve as the certified person only for that site. For example, if you own two restaurants, you need to have at least two certified individuals, one for each location. You may be one of these.

Can I take the test on-line?

- No. The standardized tests are required to be proctored. However, the training materials can be done on-line, via video, in a classroom setting, etc.

How do I find information on available training and examination?

- Contact your local health department or restaurant association.