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How to get a food handling certificate

In a world where food safety is of paramount importance, its imperative to ensure those that handle food are aware of their responsibilities.

A food handling certificate (sometimes called a safe food handling certificate or food handler certificate) is a great way to make sure that food handlers are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to handle food safely.

As of 8th December, 2023, it is required that all persons who handle unpackaged, potentially hazardous (refrigerated) items in order to produce ready-to-eat foods have completed a Food Handler course.

In today’s article, we’ll explain what a food handling certificate is, why having one is important, plus how to get a food handling certificate.

What is a Food Handler course?

A Food Handler course is a short training program designed to educate relevant people in the industry about safe food handling practices and procedures. The course covers a range of topics such as cleaning and sanitation, cross-contamination, temperature control, and the proper storage of food.

Who needs a food handling certificate?

As of 8th December, 2023, it will be a requirement that a food handler certificate be held by anyone that handles unpackaged, potentially hazardous (refrigerated) items in order to produce ready-to-eat foods. This could include a number of roles, such as:

  • Cooks
  • Chefs
  • Supermarket workers
  • Food processing workers

If you work at either a Category 1 or Category 2 business in Australia, your employer should inform you about the need to complete a Food Handler course, if it’s a requirement for you to do so. Those looking to gain employment within the above fields may like to consider completing a Food Handler course before applying for jobs, to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and qualifications.

Why is having a food handling certificate important?

There are a number of reasons why having a food handler certificate is important. Having a food handling certificate not only demonstrates that you have been properly trained in safe food handling practices but also shows your commitment to ensuring food safety for consumers. It can also help to prevent foodborne illnesses and protect a business from potential legal implications.

Below are a few reasons why having a food handler certificate is beneficial:

Ensuring food is handled safely and correctly

Possibly the biggest reason to obtain a food handling certificate is to make sure food is handled right. Improper food handling can lead to a number of issues, such as food wastage and foodborne illnesses (which can range from mild discomfort to severe health issues). By obtaining a food handling certificate, individuals will be educated on safe food handling practices, including proper cooking temperatures, hygiene, and storage procedures. This knowledge helps to prevent improper food storage, contamination and the spread of harmful bacteria.

Training and skill enhancement

Obtaining a food handling certificate involves training on various aspects of food safety and handling. This training enhances knowledge and skills in areas such as food storage and safe food preparation. The skills acquired during this process can be applied in daily work, ensuring the quality and safety of the food served and prepared. Having a food handling certificate can also serve as an advantage for individuals seeking employment opportunities in the food industry.

Legal compliance

Australia has strict regulations and guidelines concerning food safety and handling. These regulations are in place to protect consumers from unsafe food practices, and individuals and businesses in the food industry are legally required to adhere to these guidelines. Obtaining a food handling certificate demonstrates a commitment to following these laws and regulations, helping avoid legal issues, fines, or even closure of a business due to non-compliance.

Prevention of food waste

Proper food handling not only safeguards the health of customers but also helps in preventing food waste. When food is handled and stored correctly, it remains fresh for longer periods, reducing the likelihood of food spoilage and wastage. This is not only environmentally responsible but also economically beneficial for food businesses. Having a food handling certificate ensures that individuals have the necessary knowledge and skills to handle food in a way that minimises waste.

How do I get a food safety certificate in Australia?

There are various ways to obtain a food handler certificate. Those interested can generally have the option for completing a food handler certificate in person, or a food handling certificate online.

Express Online Training has partnered with Streamline Training to offer a convenient, online Food Handler course. The course is available 24/7, making it convenient for those that have busy schedules or who work irregular hours. Individuals also have three months to complete the course from enrolment date.

The Food Handler Course Online (Australia) is valid for use in all states and territories across Australia. There’s a multiple choice quiz to complete at the end to demonstrate the knowledge acquired.

How much does it cost to get a food handler certificate?

As of December 2023, the Food Handler Course Online (Australia) from Streamline Training costs $35. This can either be paid in one payment or in 4 interest-free payments with Afterpay.

Frequently asked questions

Below are a few frequently asked questions regarding the food handling certificate.

How long does it take to complete a food handling course?

A food handling course can typically be completed in around two hours. However, this may vary depending on the individual’s pace and prior knowledge.

Is there an exam for the food handling certificate, and how do I prepare for it?

While there’s not an exam that needs to be completed to obtain the food handler certificate, there is a multiple choice quiz as part of the course. To prepare for this quiz, the course materials and key concepts should be reviewed.

How long is the food handling certificate valid for?

The food handling certificate does not have an expiration date. Once you obtain the certificate, you can use it for as long as you work in the food industry. However, some employers may require a recertification every few years to ensure individuals are up-to-date with current food handling practices.

Is there a minimum age requirement for obtaining a food handling certificate?

Typically, there is no minimum age requirement to obtain a food handling certificate. However, some states or territories may have specific regulations regarding the minimum age for certain roles in the food industry. It’s important to check with the specific state or territory for any specific requirements.

Can I work in the food industry without a food handling certificate?

For many roles within the food industry, it is a legal requirement to have a food handling certificate in order to work. Working without the necessary certification can lead to fines, penalties, or (in extreme cases) the closure of a business. If you’re unsure about the specific requirements for your role, it’s best to check with your employer or local food authority. 

What’s the difference between a food handler certificate and a food safety supervisor certificate?

A food handler certificate is a qualification that must be held by all persons that handle unpackaged, potentially hazardous (refrigerated) items in order to produce ready-to-eat foods. Along with ensuring all relevant employees hold a valid food handler certificate, businesses must also appoint at least one food safety supervisor. A food safety supervisor is responsible for a number of tasks, including:

  • Identifying, prevent and fix food safety problems
  • Sharing their skills and knowledge with food handlers and promote positive food safety practices in the food business
  • Supervising food handlers engaging in handling unpackaged PHF and ensures that the correct safe food handling practices are used
  • Making sure steps are taken to manage food safety risks

A food safety supervisor will need to complete a Food Safety Supervisor course.

A food handling certificate helps to ensure the safety of customers along with legal compliance. It also equips an individual with  essential skills and opens up new career opportunities within the food industry.

Obtaining a food handling certificate is a straightforward process. The course from Streamline Training can be completed online, at your own pace, and at times that best suit your schedule.

So, if you’re involved in the food service industry or plan to be, consider investing in a food handling certificate.

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