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Food Protection Certification Exams

Food safety training programs are offered in most areas in the U.S. The reason for these training programs is that many states and territories have adopted the U.S. Food Code and as a result have to comply with a Code provision that appears in Chapter 2.  The specific language reads:  

"Based on the risks of foodborne illness inherent to the food operation, during inspections and upon request the person in charge shall demonstrate to the Regulatory authority knowledge of foodborne disease prevention, application of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point principles, and the requirements of this Code. The person in charge shall demonstrate this knowledge by:

(A) Complying with this Code;

(B) Being a certified food protection manager who has shown proficiency of required information through passing a test that is part of an accredited program; or

(C) Responding correctly to the inspector's questions as they relate to the specific food operation. 

Therefore, the purpose of most training programs is to prepare individuals to take ANSI-recognized certification exam. There is some confusion as to what training materials need to be used to prepare individuals for certification. According to the language of the Food Code, training materials are not recognized; the certification exam is. So, any training materials can be used.

Good training materials will adequately and clearly address the "knowledge" the Food Code outlines that a foodservice manager needs to master in order to operate a safe establishment. The Code lists 15 knowledge domains. The domains as cited in the Code are:

(1) Describing the relationship between the prevention of foodborne disease and the personal hygiene of a food employee;

(2) Explaining the responsibility of the person in charge for preventing the transmission of foodborne disease by a food employee who has a disease or medical condition that may cause foodborne disease;

(3) Describing the symptoms associated with the diseases that are transmissible through food;

(4) Explaining the significance of the relationship between maintaining the time and temperature of potentially hazardous food and the prevention of foodborne illness;

(5) Explaining the hazards involved in the consumption of raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, and fish;

(6) Stating the required food temperatures and times for safe cooking of potentially hazardous food including meat , poultry, eggs, and fish;

(7) Stating the required temperatures and times for the safe refrigerated storage, hot holding, cooling, and reheating of potentially hazardous food;

(8) Describing the relationship between the prevention of foodborne illness and the management and control of the following:

(9) Explaining the relationship between food safety and providing equipment that is:

(10) Explaining correct procedures for cleaning and sanitizing utensils and food-contact surfaces of equipment;

(11) Identifying the source of water used and measures taken to ensure that it remains protected from contamination such as providing protection from backflow and precluding the creation of cross connections;

(12) Identifying poisonous or toxic materials in the food establishment and the procedures necessary to ensure that they are safely stored, dispensed, used, and disposed of according to law ;

(13) Identifying critical control points in the operation from purchasing through sale or service that when not controlled may contribute to the transmission of foodborne illness and explaining steps taken to ensure that the points are controlled in accordance with the requirements of this Code;

(14) Explaining the details of how the person in charge and food employees comply with the HACCP plan if a plan is required by the law, this Code, or an agreement between the Regulatory authority and the establishment; and

(15) Explaining the responsibilities, rights, and authorities assigned by this Code to the:

     (a) food employee,

     (b) person in charge, and

     (c) Regulatory authority.

It is highly recommended that individuals participate in a training program before taking a certification exam. In fact, many states mandate attendance at a training before taking an ANSI-recognized certification exam.  One should always check with their local health department to determine what the local and state regulations are.


The Food Code requires a food protection certification exam to be ANSI-recognized to meet the Code requirement.  The recognition process, developed by the Conference for Food Protection (CFP) and carried out by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), is in place to be certain that certification is valid, reliable, legally defensible and is based on nationally accepted standards. (The Conference is an independent national voluntary nonprofit organization to promote food safety and consumer protection. Its objectives include identifying and addressing food safety problems; adopting fair and workable procedures; maintaining a working liaison among government, industry, academic, professional and consumer groups; and promoting uniform regulations in food protection.) These standards also ensure that the level of difficulty and the types of questions asked on a certification exam are consistent across the U.S.

Currently there are three ANSI-recognized exams:

The National Restaurant Association has corresponding training materials (ServSafe), which they recommend be used to prepare individuals to take the certification examination.