California passes food handler legislation

by Keith Nunes
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SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — The enactment of Senate Bill 602, which was authored by state Senator Alex Padilla of Pacoima and signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, requires all employees of California-based restaurants who handle food in restaurants to earn a California Food Handler Card. Since approximately half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point in their lives and California is home to more than 1.4 million food industry jobs, SB 602 will, over time, improve food safety in commercial and residential kitchens alike, according to the California Restaurant Association.

“Food safety is a top priority for all restaurateurs because it is the very basis of our relationship with our patrons,” said Tom Ferdinandi, chairman of the C.R.A. board of directors and executive vice-president and chief operations officer of Fresno-based Milano Restaurant International Corp. “We thank Senator Alex Padilla and Governor Schwarzenegger for engaging us in this process and for recognizing this was an opportunity to achieve a positive result for consumers, restaurant employees and owners, and state and local regulators.”

SB 602 requires restaurant employees to get a California Food Handler Card after passing training and a test within 30 days of being hired. The card will be accepted throughout the state and be valid for three years. The legislation is modeled after similar programs in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The state of Florida also has implemented similar legislation and reported a 79% reduction in foodborne illness outbreaks.

“SB 602 is lawmaking at its best: All stakeholders were at the table, working together toward a shared goal of ensuring food safety,” said Jot Condie, president and chief executive officer of the C.R.A. “We wanted a common-sense approach to training restaurant employees to safely handle food and to avoid a patchwork of local regulations. SB 602 achieves both of these goals.”
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