Texas Food Handler Mandate

Oct 27

Despite the Texas Restaurant Association's strong objection, the Texas Department of State Health Services included a statewide food handler certification requirement in the new Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER) which became effective October 11, 2015. Prior to this mandate, local city or county health departments made the decision whether or not to require food handler certification. There are 85 jurisdictions that currently require food handler certification. For those jurisdictions, nothing will change. As long as the food handler certification is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and/or the Texas Department of State Health Services the card is valid anywhere in the state of Texas. The food handler mandate is effective September 1, 2016 which means all current restaurant employees required to be certified must have their food handler permit by that date. Individuals hired after September 1, 2016 have 60 days from date of hire to get their certificate. All employees that work with un-packaged food, food equipment or utensils, or food-contact surfaces such as kitchen staff, bussers, hostesses, servers, bartenders, bar-backs etc., will need to be food handler certified. The food handler requirement is for regular staff that are not the certified food manager (CFM). The CFM has training that is already above and beyond the food handler training and would not need to be food handler certified. The food handler certificate is an individual mandate for a person to work in a food establishment. It belongs to the employee and the business is not required to provide or pay for the training as long as the cost of the training program does not take an hourly paid employee below the minimum wage. The one-year roll-out allows businesses to encourage current employees to get their cards now at the employees' cost. Employers need to encourage current employees that won't drop below minimum wage to go get certified on their own now. If the cost of the food handler training would take a current, hourly employee that is earning at or very close to the minimum wage below the minimum wage, the employer is responsible for the cost of the training. Additionally, if you take any tip credit, you must pay for the training for those employees because the cost of the food training program would take them below the tipped minimum wage. The National Restaurant Association's ServSafe Food Handler Texas program is ANSI-accredited and approved by the Texas Department of Health. It is available online for $7.95 with the promo code TEXASFH through December 31, 2015. Questions?  Contact Kenneth Besserman, TRA General Counsel EMAIL  |  800.395.2872


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