How to Get a Food Worker Card in Washington State

By Staff Writer

Walk into any restaurant in Washington and you will find food handlers. Whether they are front-of-house managers, baristas or produce clerks, Washington state requires that all food workers have a food handlers permit within 14 days of starting work.

While food safety training starts with a simple permit, ambitious employees can go on to become certified food protection managers. This article will teach you how to get a food worker card in Washington state and help you find additional resources to achieve your career goals.

What Is a Food Handler's Permit and Why Does the State Require It?

All qualifying workers in the Evergreen State must obtain a Washington state food handler's permit. It's a precautionary measure to keep restaurant patrons, store customers and others safe from harm, including foodborne illnesses, allergies and other hazards.

This permit demonstrates to prospective employers that you know how to prevent foodborne illnesses like Salmonella, Norovirus, Clostridium and Staphylococcus aureus. It also satisfies the Washington State Department of Health training mandate.

Who Needs a Card?

The state of Washington defines culinary workers as anyone who works with unpackaged dishes or ingredients, equipment or utensils or with preparation surfaces. This includes volunteers and event workers, too.

Jobs That May Require Certification

You probably need kitchen safety training if you are a:

  • Chef, cook, prep cook or other kitchen assistant
  • Server, bartender, cocktail server, host or busser
  • Bakery, butcher, produce or grocery cashier
  • Cafeteria professional
  • Delivery or warehouse employee
  • Nursing home or hospital worker
  • Barista
  • Manager in the culinary industry

This is not a complete list. But it does illustrate just how many jobs affect public health through contact with foodstuffs.

What You'll Learn

To get your permit, you must complete a state-mandated kitchen safety curriculum. You will master important skills and concepts designed to keep customers safe as they eat.

Topics include:

Proper storage: Learn proper temperatures for freezing and cooling items, as well as how to rotate stock so that the oldest items get used first. Deal with pantry items. Attention to food safety laws is part of this curriculum.

Industry safety issues or hazards: Identify common allergens like eggs, nuts, shellfish and more. Understand what cross-contamination is and how to eliminate it. Discover the common pathogens that make cross-contamination so dangerous in the kitchen.

Standards of cleanliness: Employ proper hand-washing techniques. Control trash and other contaminants. Clean work surfaces properly.

Earning a Permit

The only way to get a valid Washington food handlers permit online is directly through this government website.

Once you complete the certificate from the online course, it's available to download immediately. The card is good wherever you work in the Evergreen State.

Your local health department offers the training, exam and card through in-person lessons. Click here to find your local office.

Your card is valid for three years. To renew it, you must repeat your training with the health department in your area before your card expires. You must be at least 14 years old to take the food safety exam.

Manager Certification

After you get your card, you may want to become a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM), too. CFPMs are responsible for keeping their establishment clean and sanitary. As a CFPM, you must demonstrate knowledge of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) food code and relevant Washington state codes.

To become a CFPM, you must get your certification from a qualified company like our partners at StateFoodSafety. StateFoodSafety is accredited by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) as a provider of the food manager certification exam.

You will learn everything you need to know for the certification exam. The study material includes free practice exams, which you can take as many times as necessary. You also have access to study guides and the manager's handbook.

You can purchase the training program, the online proctored exam or a bundle with both. The course can be completed 100% online. Access the coursework and the exam in the comfort of your home or office.

While we are not an approved provider of Washington state food handler instruction, we do offer approved training in many other states and jurisdictions. Take a look at our other handling courses to find the resources you need in your area.