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Food handler’s certificate

Food safety is important for anyone involved in the handling, preparation and serving of food. Often, gaining an understanding of food safety requires completion of food hygiene training, which may result in receiving a food handler’s certificate. This food handler’s certificate demonstrates that an individual has received training in proper food handling, preparation, storage and food hygiene practices.

Somebody preparing chicken in a food business.

 

In this article, we will outline the process of obtaining a food handler’s certificate and the essential components of food hygiene training necessary for certification. We will also look at some frequently asked questions surrounding food hygiene certification. This knowledge will assist food businesses and individuals in the food service industry in eliminating harmful food-borne diseases and maintaining high standards of food safety.


Food hygiene inspections

The food handler’s certificate can also serve as evidence of training and can be shown to the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) to demonstrate an individual has been trained in the appropriate level of food hygiene training so they can work safely in an environment where food is handled, prepared and served. The type of food handling certificate that you need depends on the role you have in a food business and the type of food you work with, you can read more about this in the next section: What food handling certificate do I need?

In the UK, EHOs are responsible for ensuring that food establishments who serve and prepare food to the public, such as restaurants, early years settings, catering services and home food businesses comply with food hygiene regulations and the public’s health is protected by reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses when eating at such settings.

The EHO will inspect your food premises and observe cleanliness and sanitation of the facilities, food handling, preparation and storage practices, pest control measures and how food safety is managed. They also investigate complaints and offer guidance. Following the inspection, food businesses are awarded a hygiene rating (based on a snapshot of the standards of food hygiene found at the time of inspection) on a scale from 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest rating indicating ‘very good’ hygiene standards, and 0 indicating ‘urgent improvement’ is necessary. This is known as the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) and ratings are published online on the Food Standards Agency website in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or on the Food Standards Scotland website in Scotland. The rating allows consumers to make informed decisions about where to eat or buy food.

Image of somebody washing their hands in a food service environment.

 

 


What food handling certificate do I need?

As a food handler, your training requirements will depend on the role you have in a food business and the type of food you work with.

For people that have a role such as front of house in a restaurant or those working in a bar or as a food delivery driver may only need a Level 1 food handler’s certificate, but for most roles, such as chefs, cooks and food preparers/handlers/servers working in a variety of settings such as hospitals, mobile food vans, schools, hotels and cafes, will require a more advanced food handler’s certificate training such as Level 2 food hygiene training. Level 3 training is required for managers and supervisors of food establishments who are responsible for training staff, as well as developing food safety systems.

Image which helps you choose which food hygiene level course do you choose.


Do you have to pass a test to receive your food handler’s certificate?

Yes, typically, in order to obtain a food hygiene certificate through online training, you must pass a test or assessment at the end of the online training course. This test evaluates your understanding of food hygiene principles and practices covered in the course material. In our online food hygiene courses, our final assessment mainly consists of multiple-choice questions. Successfully passing the assessment demonstrates that you have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills to handle food safely and prevent foodborne illnesses.

Sample assessment at the end of a module.


How long is the food handler’s certificate valid for?

Although there is no legal expiry date on any of our food hygiene course and food handler’s certificates, we follow industry best practices, requiring renewal of our food handler’s certificate every two years and an individual must retake a course in order to receive an updated food handler’s certificate. Although the legal guidelines such as The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 are not specific, and it  says that food handlers must be ‘trained in food hygiene matters commensurate with their work activities’.

It is also recommended by the EHOs that refresher training is taken regularly so food handlers can be confident in their food safety knowledge and refresh their memories as some concepts are quite detailed and can be forgotten over a period of time. Legislation is subject to amendments, so a food handler’s skillset may become outdated if they don’t refresh their food hygiene knowledge after a period of two years.


What should be included in a food hygiene course?

The modules of a food hygiene course cover a range of topics and the depth of information is dependent on what level of food hygiene course you are taking. Although some typical topics covered are:

  • The Four Cs of basic food hygiene: Achieving these basic requirements is key to passing an inspection and getting a good rating. More information about the Four Cs is explained in the image below:More detail about the 4Cs of food hygiene.
  • Personal hygiene and sickness: Includes the importance of personal hygiene in preventing food contamination, including proper handwashing techniques and when and how to use gloves.
  • Time and temperature control: Understanding the critical temperatures for storing, thawing, cooking and reheating food to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Cross-contamination prevention: Techniques to avoid cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods and between different types of food allergies.
  • The food hazards: Food hazards are grouped into categories, these are biological, chemical, physical and allergen hazards that can contaminate food and pose risks to consumer health. Effective food safety measures aim to identify, prevent and control these hazards throughout the food supply chain to ensure the safety and quality of food products. More information is detailed in the image below.

Food hazards and more info.

  • Cleaning and sanitising: Proper methods for cleaning and sanitising surfaces, utensils and equipment in food preparation areas.
  • Pest control: Basic principles of pest control to prevent infestation in food service establishments.
  • Food hygiene laws: Knowledge of regulations and laws regarding food safety and the responsibilities of food handlers.
  • Preparation and storage: Adhering to best practices for the preparation and storage of food items, including proper handling techniques to minimise the risk of contamination and maintaining appropriate storage conditions to preserve food quality and safety.

Conclusion

The process of achieving a food handler’s certificate often involves food safety training and passing some sort of assessment. By adhering to these standards learned in these training courses and continually updating your knowledge, food handlers play an important role in mitigating the risk of foodborne illnesses and upholding public health standards. Obtaining a food handler’s certificate serves as evidence that food hygiene training of a certain level has been taken and can assure EHOs that your food business complies with food hygiene regulations and you are protecting your customers’ health and safety.

We hope this article has answered all your frequently asked questions about a food handler’s certificate. If you need any additional help in choosing the best food hygiene course for you or your organisation, then contact our friendly customer support team who are always ready to discuss your food safety and food allergen training needs.

  • Food Safety