What Does it Mean to Be ServSafe Certified?

Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

ServSafe is a nationally accredited certification program on food safety designed by the National Restaurant Association. It's designed primarily for those working in the food-services sector; however, anyone can get a ServSafe certification.

In some states, cities and counties, food-safety certification is required by law where food is prepared or served. This can be from ServSafe or any other organization or educational institution that's recognized by the government requiring certification.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

To be ServSafe certified means a person possesses a ServSafe certificate and has proven her knowledge in food safety. It can be a valuable certificate for those in the restaurant or food-service sector and may be a requirement of state or municipal law.

What's ServSafe Certification?

The National Restaurant Association has over 40,000 members representing about 500,000 restaurants. ServSafe certification programs are based on the guidelines and requirements found in the U.S. Food Code as well as from the wealth of experience and expertise from the National Restaurant Association's membership.

There are five ServSafe certificates available:

  1. ServSafe Manager: The food manager is responsible for monitoring food safety in an establishment and for training employees in food safety. State law may require certified food managers to be present when food is being prepared.

  2. ServSafe Food Handler: This certification is for any employee who works with food or surfaces that come into contact with food. Some states may require all employees to be certified within 30 days of being hired.

  3. ServSafe Alcohol: This certification is appropriate for both managers and employees who work for a restaurant or other establishment. It is designed for serving alcoholic beverages responsibly.

  4. ServSafe Allergens: This certification may be required for anyone in the food-services industry. It trains people about food allergens and allergies.
     
  5. ServSafe Workplace: This is ServSafe's newest program. It focuses on employee work and safety, sexual harassment and mitigating bias due to cultural and social differences.  

Why Food Safety Is Important

While food in the United States is among the safest in the world, the FDA estimates that there are about 48 million cases of food poisoning every year, affecting an average of one in six Americans. These account for 3,000 deaths and 128,000 hospitalizations annually.

Having trained and certified staff and managers in the food-service industry not only keeps food poisoning and allergen contamination down but it assures customers that the proper precautions are being taken whenever food is cooked, handled or served.

Training and certification programs like ServSafe ensure employees are trained in best practices. For example, they would know that frozen food should never be left to thaw on the counter. The U.S. Food Code recommends that it is thawed in a refrigerator that is 41 degrees Fahrenheit or colder or submerged under cold running water. They would also understand basic hygiene practices, such as the requirement that employees handling food should use hair restraints like hats or hair nets, except for those who only minimally handle food, like hostesses and servers.

How to Become ServSafe Certified

The first step in getting your ServSafe certification is to create an account on the ServSafe website. Once you have a ServSafe login, you can then buy the program or course you want. You have the option to take an online course or to enroll in a class with an instructor. ServSafe also sells its handbooks and other literature, with bulk discounts available.

In 2020, the ServSafe manager online course costs $125, while the course/exam bundle costs $152.95. The ServSafe food handler online course and assessment bundle, including the exam, costs only $15. There is no fee to download your certificate, so you can print it. However, if you want a certificate mailed to you, there will be a small charge.