Food safety

Food handler | Definition; responsibilites; required trainings; food handlers card; etc.

An individual working in a food business functioning directly with food is referred to as a food handler.

Get your HACCP in
1 hour!

Sign up now

Food Safety System in 15 min

Sign up now

An individual working in a food business functioning directly with food is referred to as a food handler.

  • Food handlers receive, prepare, cook, and serve food in a food establishment.
  • Food handlers are required to receive the appropriate training in handling food safely.
  • Make food safety training and monitoring easier with FoodDocs' digital Food Safety Management System.

The food industry works because of food handlers. They perform the food preparation and safety principles that make up the whole food industry. Put simply, any food business will not survive without food handlers. Even with the help of automation, there would be no one to operate machines without food handlers. Food handlers are the backbone of any food establishment.

Food handlers are learned individuals in the field of food service, manufacturing, retail, and maintenance of food safety. They are responsible for protecting public health while producing high-quality food products. To properly perform their intended tasks, food handlers must undergo serious food handling training. Training food workers on safe food handling is a responsibility of a reliable food business owner or food safety manager. Poor food handling is directly linked to the increase in foodborne illness cases. As such, it is a requirement for food handlers to receive appropriate training.

Learn how you can make food handling training easier and help your employees comply with food safety standards efficiently from this article.

Here is a list of the main topics in this article:



Who is considered a food handler?

A food handler is any individual working in a food business facility. They are involved in preparing and handling raw foods, operating food equipment, cleaning food contact surfaces, and any food operation with direct contact with food. Food handlers can be cooks, chefs, dishwashers, cleaning aide, and servers. 

Food handlers are screened and employed by food business owners or managers to determine their competence in food service or manufacturing. Once hired, they are further trained to gain appreciation and knowledge of food safety and proper customer service.

Otherwise known as food workers, the hired food handlers are assigned specific tasks in a food business and are expected to maintain safety and quality through their work. 


handling food


What do food handlers do? 

In general, food handlers are tasked to operate the different areas of a food business involving the following:

  1. Receiving raw materials
  2. Inspecting supplies
  3. Storing food supplies
  4. Preparing raw food ingredients
  5. Cooking foods
  6. Packaging food
  7. Delivery of foods/ Serving of food

Depending on the dynamics of a food business, a food handler may be given more than one task. They are responsible for ensuring that food safety hazards are always controlled and foods are safe for consumption.


What are the responsibilities of a food handler?

The responsibility of a food handler goes beyond just cooking food. Every food handler is tasked to protect consumers from potential foodborne illnesses. They are also responsible for protecting the company brand through proper food handling.


In particular, here are some of the principal responsibilities of a food handler:



  1. Carefully inspect all incoming deliveries of unpackaged food supplies for quality and storage conditions.
  2. Request for important documents regarding the shipment and document all transactions.


Storage and organization

  1. Properly organizing foods inside the storage area, including the freezer and refrigerator
  2. Labeling foods for their production and expiration dates
  3. Monitoring the storage conditions of raw materials
  4. Monitoring the level of food supply and immediately communicating low stocks or the need for alternative supplies
  5. Monitoring the shelf-life of food products
  6. Ensuring proper food rotation of supplies


Preparation and cooking

  1. Cleaning raw materials and preparing them for cooking (e.g., peeling, chopping, and washing)
  2. Ensuring that no cross-contact of allergen occurs
  3. Monitoring the critical cooking conditions of foods
  4. Operating cooking equipment and machines
  5. Applying corrective actions in case cooking conditions are not met


Packaging and storage of cooked foods

  1. Neatly preparing foods for packaging without cross-contamination
  2. Storing ready-to-eat foods in airtight containers and labeling them


Cleaning and sanitation

  1. Properly cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces
  2. Promptly cleaning spills or food incidents
  3. Cleaning and sanitizing all tools, utensils, and equipment in the food facility
  4. Monitoring the availability of cleaning supplies
  5. Ensuring the safe storage of cleaning supplies and chemicals
  6. Discarding spoiled and contaminated food


General responsibilities

  1. Maintaining proper and strict personal hygiene
  2. Communicating with the food safety supervisor and other team members about the status or any incident regarding their tasks
  3. Cooperating with food safety inspectors and health departments to achieve food safety compliance


Responsibilites of a food handler


More specific responsibilities in the different areas of a food facility are provided to food handlers. All working employees must be knowledgeable about the proper handling practices to protect public health from foodborne illnesses. Food employees must receive adequate and proper food safety training class to ensure their competency. 

Use our digital Food Safety Management System to get a program that generates digital monitoring logs and promotes role-based tasks for your team. Ensure that every food handler is focused on their task by assigning particular logs to them. In addition, you can easily monitor and verify if every task is done on time and correctly in the palm of your hand.


FSMS FoodDocs


What training does a food handler need? 

Food handler training programs and understanding food safety regulations are important for all employees of a food business. Training programs commonly include basic information about food handling and the principles of food safety.

Securing food handling training can help reduce the risk and burden of food safety issues.

Different levels of food handler training programs are provided by federal agencies and private organizations.Depending on the position of a food worker, the level of training required may increase. 

Some of the most important training that a food handler must have before working in a food business may include the following:

  1. Fundamentals of food safety
  2. Major types of food hazards
  3. Foodborne illnesses and vulnerable groups
  4. Food hygiene
  5. Proper food handling procedures
  6. Food safety management system

Food safety training programs are commonly divided into different levels. The degree of contact with food and responsibilities in the facility will determine the required level of training.

The mentioned food safety training topics are common for all levels of programs. These topics are fundamental for any food handler to ensure food safety in the workplace. More advanced training may involve a deeper understanding of biological processes, strategy making, and creating food safety plans.

Food safety training is often offered through different modes of teaching. The more popular option is online courses. These programs provide flexibility for the food handler. An individual can participate anytime they want and pause the module when needed. The advantage of on-site training from private organizations and government agencies is that they offer practical lessons for training food handlers. 

At the end of every food handler training program and exam, participants are given a certificate as proof of successful completion. Food handlers can claim the certificate online. In some cases, the training program must be renewed to refresh and update the food safety knowledge of employees.

Some countries and states recommend the renewal of certificates every three years. On the other hand, food safety managers are required to renew training every 5 years.


food handler handing food


What is a food handlers card? 

In the U.S., all food handlers are required to undergo training before being allowed to work. As proof of proficiency, food handlers must secure a certificate, which is otherwise presented as a food handlers card in different states.

A food handlers card is a license presented to food safety inspectors. It is proof that a particular food handler knows the basics of food safety and is qualified to work in a food business. 

The guidelines for securing a food handlers card and the frequency of renewal will depend on the food safety regulations of a state. In some cases, the qualifications vary from state to state as well. This fact makes a card inapplicable when you transfer states. 

A majority of states in the U.S. provide in-state training programs that highlight the specific regulations of that state.

In the UK, food handlers are not required to secure a food safety certificate to work in a food business. The law only requires that food handlers must be able to show knowledge of food handling practices and receive adequate training.

Check out our list of answers for food handlers test to train employees and ensure their successful completion of an official exam.


Good-to-know for a food handler

After undergoing training, food safety managers can provide supplemental tools that will help food handlers.These tools can help improve the retention of information and the accuracy of the operations.

Most tools will highlight the essential information that you need to always observe in a food business. Some of the useful rules and tips that you need include:

    • Proper handwashing must be done for at least 20 seconds to be effective.
    • Food handlers are only allowed to wash their hands in designated areas to avoid cross-contamination.
    • Foods must be kept away from the temperature danger zone.
    • No jewelry, except a plain wedding band, is allowed to be worn inside the food facility.
    •  Foods inside the refrigerator must be organized to prevent cross-contamination.
    • Foods must be properly cooked to the correct internal temperature. 
    • Use the recommended concentration and contact time of sanitizers.
    • Never allow sick food handlers to work with food. 
    • A food handler may eat in an area used for serving customers or a designated area for them.


Food handlers are required to know at least the fundamentals and principles of food safety procedures. An adequate appreciation of the operations can help food handlers improve their performance and secure food safety. 

When a food handler knows the potential consequences of poor food safety practices, accountability can be improved.

At FoodDocs, we provide free food handlers solutions such as templates, checklists, and posters that you can use to guide food handlers. Access our HACCP plan template hub and check out our free resources.


How can food handlers reduce bacteria to safe levels?

Food handlers can significantly reduce the likelihood of bacteria in foods by practicing proper food hygiene. The presence of bacteria is a major type of biological contamination in the food industry. This food safety hazard is responsible for the majority of foodborne illness cases reported yearly.

Maintaining personal hygiene tasks can significantly reduce the risk of bacterial contamination to safe levels. In addition, other critical operations must also be observed. Operations, such as cooking, storage, and handling, all contribute to the safety of foods.

Read more about limiting the growth of bacteria in food here.


Digital solution for food safety training

Food handlers training is not only an essential job, but it is also a continuous one. This means that an employee will have to learn more tasks as they move along their careers. Managers need to pay attention to food safetytraining and provide the necessary knowledge to food handlers. While new food handlers are practicing a food safety procedure, managers must consistently take notes for future evaluation and feedback.

Food safety can only be achieved if the employees know how to control food hazards in the food business. 

Nowadays, digital solutions, such as FoodDocs' digital Food Safety Management System, can help ensure that the knowledge and expertise from food handler training are consistently applied and maintained. With smart, digital solutions, food safety compliance can become more accessible.

When you use our digital Food Safety Management System, you can get the following features for all food employees:

  • You can get automatically generated monitoring logs for all essential food safety tasks in your operations. With this feature, you do not need to spend so much time crafting monitoring logs and checklists from scratch. Some of the most applicable logs that you can get include:
    • Cooking temperature log

Cooking_temperature (1)-png

Cooking temperature log from FoodDocs


    • Fridge temperature log
    • Employee hygiene checklist


Employee hygiene checklist from FoodDocs


  • All monitoring logs and checklists come with detailed instructions that can help food handlers perform tasks correctly and accurately. You can also upload videos or digital documents to help support training new food handlers regarding their assigned tasks.
  • Our system promotes role-based tasks. Food managers can specifically assign monitoring tasks to food handlers, which they can access through the mobile app. With this, food handlers can focus on their tasks.
  • Food handlers also get a smart notification system. With this feature, our system will send intuitive alerts to remind food handlers of tasks that need to be done. This system can also be used to remind food handlers whenever their certificates for training need to be reviewed.

In addition to features that will ease up food safety training, our digital solution also provides features that can help boost management efficiency

  • Get a real-time dashboard that will give you a quick overview of your food safety progress throughout your store branches. Easily point out areas that need more improvement and attention.

Real-time dashboard

Real-time dashboard from FoodDocs


  • Our system features a module that allows managers to store food handler's training certificates. This module will require the effectivity period of the certificate. Once the certificate or card is almost up for renewal, our system will notify the food safety manager.


Food handler training certificates stored in FoodDocs

Food handler training module at FoodDocs


  • Store and organize all team-related documents in one digital cloud space.

What's even more appealing about our digital solution is that you can get all of these features and more in just 15 minutes. Powered by artificial intelligence and a machine-learning program, our system can automatically generate all essential documents for your food business.

The whole process only requires you to fill up and answer a few basic questions about your operations and our system will do the rest

In addition, you can further improve or tailor all food safety monitoring logs to your operations. All logs and checklists are easily customizable at any time.

Consistently train and monitor food handlers without putting in much effort using our digital food safety management system.

Use our free 14-day trial to experience how our system can help you maintain food safety compliance.




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are you still in the dark about the most important food handling techniques and training? Here are some frequently asked questions about food handlers.


Are grocery store workers also food handlers?

Grocery store or retail workers with direct contact with food are also considered food handlers. Anyone working with foods, whether packing, preparing, cooking, or serving foods, is considered a food handler. 


What are 5 food safety rules?

The most essential food safety rules include the following:

  1. Always maintain cleanliness in the facility;
  2. Avoid cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods;
  3. Cook and reheat foods thoroughly;
  4. Store foods at recommended temperatures; and
  5. Thaw foods inside the refrigerator or use other approved methods to avoid spoilage.


How can food handlers control the potential contamination of food?

The most effective way for food handlers to avoid contamination is to regularly practice proper handwashing. This simple food safety operation can significantly reduce the likelihood of causing foodborne illness to consumers.


What do you call a food service worker?

A food service worker is otherwise known as a food handler. The term food service worker is often used for handlers working in the food service industry, such as in restaurants.


Are food service workers the same as food handlers?

Yes. A food service worker is a more specific term for a food handler. They are food handlers working in restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores.


What final step should a food handler do before handling ready-to-eat food?

Before handling ready-to-eat foods, food handlers must wash their hands properly. Ready-to-eat foods are already about to be served to consumers. As such, food handlers must ensure that no contamination will occur between preparation and service.



Similar posts