Food Handler Training

Food Handler Training in Illinois

The following answers are based on Public Act 098-0566, Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act, signed into law August 27, 2013. A full text version of the Act can be found here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1578  

Who is considered a food handler?
"Food employee" or "food handler" means an individual working with unpackaged food, food equipment or utensils, or food-contact surfaces. “Food employee” or “food handler” does not include unpaid volunteers or temporary events.

Who is required to have food handler training?
Any food handler working in Illinois, unless that person has a valid Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) certification or unpaid volunteer. If someone working in a facility is not a food handler on a regular basis, but fills in as a food handler when needed, they must have food handler training.

Who is NOT required to have food handler training?
Anyone working in a facility who is not a food handler by definition, unpaid volunteers or any food handler who has a valid Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) certification are not required to have training. Temporary food establishment employees are also exempt from the food handler training requirement. What type of training is required and by what date? The first thing is to determine whether the type of food service establishment is a restaurant or non-restaurant.

Food Handlers Working in a Restaurant

What is a restaurant?
“Restaurant” means any business that is primarily engaged in the sale of ready-to-eat food for immediate consumption. Where “primarily engaged” means having sales of ready-to-eat food for immediate consumption comprising of at least 51% of the total sales, excluding the sale of liquor, as defined in Section 3 of the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act. For the purposes of this definition, restaurants would include concessions and other food service establishments where food is intended for immediate or on-site consumption.

What is the timeline for implementation?
All food handlers working in restaurants shall have training beginning July 1, 2014.

What type of training is offered for restaurants?
Food handler courses with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approval can be found on the ANSI website at: https://www.ansica.org/wwwversion2/outside/ALLdirectoryListing.asp?menuID=212&prgID=237&prgID1=238&status=4  The course and assessment can be completed online, 24 hours/day and does not need to be monitored by an instructor. Upon passing the assessment, the certificate is immediately available to print. A local health department that has a Department approved training program may provide training for restaurants. For a list of local health departments go to: http://www.idph.state.il.us/local/alpha.htm  In addition, any business with a training program approved in another state prior to August 27, 2013, may provide training if registered with the Department.

How is the training administered?
Training can be online, computer, classroom, live trainers, remote trainers and by certified food service sanitation managers. For those food handlers working in restaurants, the training must be ANSI approved, unless their local health department has been approved by the Department to provide food handler training to restaurants or they work for a business with a Department approved internal training program.

Will everyone receiving food handler training receive a certificate?
Not every food handler training course will issue a certificate, but proof of training must be available in the facility upon inspector request. Proof of training can be in the form of a written or electronic list that must contain the food handler’s name, training received and date of training. ANSI approved food handler training courses will issue a certificate upon passing the assessment.

How long is the certificate valid?
The ANSI food handler training certificates are good for three years and those taking other types of trainings that work in restaurants and other non-restaurant facilities, such as nursing homes, licensed day care homes and facilities, hospitals, schools and long-term care facilities, are good for three years. Those working in non-restaurants, other than those listed above, are not required to take another food handler training unless they go to work for another employer. Food handler training for those working in non-restaurants is not transferable between employers.

Will my food handler certificate be valid throughout Illinois?
Restaurant food handler training certificates are valid throughout the state, unless the training was obtained at a business through a Department approved internal training program.

Who can teach food handler courses?
Anyone can teach food handler training courses. It is important to remember, it is not who is teaching the training, but that you receive the appropriate training based on whether you work in a restaurant or non-restaurant.

Food Handlers Working in a Non-restaurant

What is a non-restaurant?

Non-restaurants are facilities, such as nursing homes, licensed day care homes and facilities, hospitals, schools, long-term care facilities and retail food stores.

What is the timeline for implementation?
All food handlers working in non-restaurants shall have training completed by July 1, 2016.

What type of training is offered for non-restaurants?
Any food handler training course that has been registered and approved by the Department is acceptable for food handlers in non-restaurants.

How long is the certificate valid?
Those working in non-restaurants are not required to take another food handler training, unless they go to work for another employer or if they work in nursing homes, licensed day care homes and facilities, hospitals, schools or long-term care facilities. Food handlers working in those facilities must receive training every three years. Food handler training for those working in non-restaurants is not transferable between employers.

Will my food handler certificate be valid throughout Illinois?
No, non-restaurant training is not transferable between employers.

Common Questions Regarding Food Handler Training

Will the state issue food handler certifications?
No, the state will not issue food handler certifications.

Since the Illinois Food Service Sanitation Manager Certification (FSSMC) was eliminated January 1, 2018, does that mean that Food Handler Training is no longer required?
Food Handler Training is still required for ALL paid employees who meets the definition of a food handler in both restaurants and non-restaurants within 30 days of hire, unless that food handler has a valid Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) certification.

Is the employer responsible for paying for food handler training?
No, an employer is not responsible for paying for food handler training, since it is the property of the certificate holder.

Who can teach food handler courses?
Anyone can teach food handler training courses.

I want to offer an ANSI accredited food handler training at my business for my employees only, what should I do?
You will need to choose an ANSI accredited food handler training provider that offers classroom materials. Those providers can be found here: http://www.ansi.org/Accreditation/credentialing/certificateissuers/AllDirectoryListing.aspx?prgID=237,238&statusID=4 You do not need to register an ANSI accredited food handler training program with the Department.

Is there a set fee for the course?
No, the Act states there has to be at least one food handler training option available for $15.00 or less and there are multiple ANSI approved programs available online at that price.

Do nursing or therapy staff working in a hospital, nursing home, etc. need to have food handler training?
Nursing and therapy staff are not required to have food handler training. Even though some nursing and therapy staff may deliver trays or assist patients with feeding, the intention of the food handler training requirement is for food handlers working in the food preparation and food service areas of the facility that fall under the Illinois Food Code. However, because nursing and therapy staff serve a highly susceptible population, food handler training is strongly encouraged.

Are teachers in daycares or other childcare centers required to have food handler training?
Because some daycares and childcare centers portion, serve and consume their meals in the classroom, outside of the food preparation area of the facility, it is strongly encouraged that they receive food handler training. It is not required because the classrooms do not fall under the Illinois Food Code. However, because they serve a highly susceptible population, food handler training is strongly encouraged.

I work at a Summer Food site, do I need food handler training?
Yes, food handlers working at Summer Food sites are required to have food handler training

Will volunteers be required to have food handler training?
No, only paid food employees will need to have food handler training.

If retail food establishments also have a deli or produce (cutting fruits and vegetables for trays/fruit salads) section, do the deli and produce employees, but not stockers/cashiers, need their food handler training?
Retail stores with delis would be considered non-restaurant and everyone meeting the definition of a food handler would need training.

If a grocery store has a bakery, deli, salad bar and coffee shop inside, is the grocery store considered a non-restaurant and the deli, bakery, considered restaurants? A grocery store is a retail food store, along with other retail stores that sell clothing and housewares and are considered a non-restaurant even though they have multiple food operations under that same roof. If the retail store is the owner/operator of the food operations, then it is considered a non-restaurant as a whole. If the retail store has a food operation in it that is run by a third party, then that specific food operation would be considered a restaurant and the retail store would be considered a non-restaurant (only if it had other food handlers in that facility).

Are convenience stores that may only have hot dogs on a rotating grill as a food item classified as a restaurant or non-restaurant?
Convenience stores with gas stations would be considered non-restaurant. Those convenience stores that do not sell gas, only food items and have roller grills with food handling taking place could be considered a restaurant, but the local health department needs to decide this based on other items, such as lottery and cigarettes, that the facility might also sell along with ready to eat foods.

Do temporary or mobile food stands (cotton candy/corn dogs/shake-ups) require food handling certificates?
Mobile food-yes. Food handlers would need training. Temporary food-no. Temporary events are exempt from the food handler training requirement.

Will places not permitted by local health departments, such as churches and clubs (Lions, Elks, Masonic lodges), require food handler training?
Yes, they would require food handler training for their employees. Most clubs should already be permitted by local health departments, because they have kitchens and serve the public. Volunteers are exempt from the training requirement. If a church is just doing temporary events, they would not need food handler training, as temporary food establishment employees are exempt from having food handler training.

If a food service establishment is not inspected by the local health department, do they still need food handler training?
Yes, if the establishment falls under the Illinois Food Code, any employee meeting the definition of a food handler would need food handler training.

Do the mentally disabled working in a facility, restaurant or non-restaurant need to have food handler training?
Any food handler employed by a restaurant or non-restaurant must have training. There are several options for training (classroom, hands-on, DVDs, online) that can be used and the assessment can be taken multiple times, in most cases. Food handlers that are not paid employees would be considered volunteers and are not required to have training.

How do I submit a training program to the Department for approval?
Applications are only accepted online via this website: https://ildph.usasafeinspect.com/
Register as a new user if this is the first time using our system, then click on “new applications” where you see the food handler training program application noted.  Then, complete the food handler training online application, upload a copy of the presentation and assessment that you will be using, and submit. There is currently no fee to have a food handler training program approved by the Department.

What am I required to cover in my food handler training program?
If you are a non-restaurant, creating your own food handler training program, it must cover the 5 required topic areas listed in the Act (http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1578 ) and you must provide an assessment.  Both, the presentation/course being used in your training and the assessment shall be submitted to the Department for approval online, as described above.

What is the required score a student must receive in order to pass food handler training course?
The passing score is up to the individual food handler training program, there is no minimum score required by the Department.

How long is my approved food handler training program valid?
Once approved by the Department, it remains valid and does not need to be resubmitted.

How will my local health department know my food handler training course is approved by the Department?
It is the responsibility of the food establishment or food worker to provide proof to the local health department/inspector that they are using an approved program by showing them a copy of the ANSI accredited food handler training certificate or proof of approval by the Department, such as the approval confirmation issued via email upon approval.