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This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
In Oregon, there are a set of rules to protect public health and limit foodborne illness from improper food handling. Thankfully for business owners, these rules are straightforward and apply across the entire state.
However, unlike some other states, Oregon has specific requirements for what is and is not acceptable when it comes to food handler training. It’s important to make sure the training program you use is valid and has been approved by the Oregon Health Authority. Once you know the rules, it should be a simple process to make sure your staff meets all legal requirements.
Food safety training in Oregon
In Oregon, the food handler card law is OAR 333-175. This law covers everything you’ll need to know about food safety certification. Here is some of what you’ll find:
Who is required to take a training course?
Anyone involved in the handling or preparation of food needs to meet the food safety training law requirement. This means they will have to take a course and pass an exam within 30 days of the date they are hired. If they do not receive certification within 30 days, they cannot remain employed.
Businesses that fall under this rule include:
- Bed and breakfasts
- Mobile units (food trucks are an example)
- Warehouse or vending operations
Businesses that are exempt from this law include:
- Temporary restaurants
- Facilities run by a benevolent association
These exempt establishments will still need at least one person on premises at all times who has completed food handler training and can oversee operations.
Once your employees have received their food handler certification, that certification is valid for three years. After three years, they will need to renew their certification by retaking a class, passing another exam, and paying any associated fees.
Where Oregon differs from many other states is that it is more strict about what courses are approved by the Oregon Health Authority. While many states rely on the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Oregon vets all programs itself. That means ANSI accreditation alone does not meet Oregon standards.
In fact, the National Restaurant Association’s recommended course, ServSafe, does not meet the Oregon standard for food handler training. Instead, Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association has its own recommended course. You can also look at the full list of approved courses in Oregon. This list includes in-person and online training options broken down by county.
Some other things worth knowing about Oregon-approved courses:
- Online and in-person courses are equally valid.
- Certification is valid statewide. However, certification from another state is not valid in Oregon.
- You do not need food handler training if you have completed food manager certification. For this training, ServSafe is accepted as well as some additional options, depending on your county. This training is valid for five years.
What’s in the course?
Once you’ve decided on an Oregon-approved course, it can be helpful to prepare your staff for what they will be learning. Oregon has a downloadable manual that goes over the topics that will be covered. All courses will cover:
- Foodborne illness – A general overview of foodborne illness, including symptoms of illness and that it cannot necessarily be identified through look, smell, or taste.
- Role of a food handler in foodborne illness – This will cover the five major mistakes a food handler can make. These mistakes are: Hand-washing errors, working while ill, cross-contamination, final cooking temperature errors, and temperature control errors.
- Role of management – This establishes the role of the food handler in relation to management and states that management needs to establish proper food-handling procedures.
- Hand-washing – Ensures that food handlers know how to wash their hands, including proper technique and when hand-washing is needed.
- Employee illness – Employees should not work while ill. This also tells food handlers what symptoms to look out for.
- Contamination and cross-contamination – Defines and helps food handlers identify signs of contamination and cross-contamination of food.
- Final temperature – Teaches temperatures for cooked foods before they can be safely eaten.
- Temperature control – Teaches safe temperature zones for the storage of uncooked foods to avoid bacterial contamination.
Finishing the course
Upon completing training, students will be required to take an exam to show they have retained the knowledge provided. They will need to correctly answer at least 75% of the questions on this exam to pass the course.
Finally, a fee of no more than $10 will need to be paid. After this fee is paid and the exam has been passed, your program will provide you with all necessary certification papers. Once your employees receive these papers, they are ready to continue working.
If a food handler’s card is lost or stolen, contact your course provider. In-person courses can issue a new card for an additional $5 fee. Online courses should also be able to accommodate a reprinting of your card. If you have any other questions, consult the Oregon Health Authority website.