California restaurant workers must be licensed to handle food starting July 1

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File: A Starbucks Coffee barrista readies a beverage for a customer in the new 42nd Street store August 5, 2003 in New York City.

A new state law will require restaurant workers to obtain food-handling licenses, beginning Friday. The law is designed to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses. But bakers, baristas, bartenders and others still have time to get licensed before they face penalties.

That’s because many workers and their employers might not know about the law, introduced last year by Democratic state Senator Alex Padilla from Pacoima.

The law requires virtually everyone who works in, say, your favorite corner restaurant – except dishwashers and maybe some servers – to pass a food safety test and obtain a “certified food handler” card. The restaurant must keep the cards on file and ready to present to public health inspectors when they come a-knocking. The cards are valid for three years.

Padilla amended the bill to make it easier and cheaper for people to take an online food handler’s test and qualify for the $15 permit. The state will delay enforcement until January.

But California will require licenses for all people who come into contact with food they serve to customers. Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties already have food handling programs, so they’re exempt from the state law.

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