Who Regulates Food and Beverage Compliance Training?
Who really oversees the regulatory landscape for training in Food Safety and Responsible Alcohol Sales and Service? The short answer - NO ONE agency or body regulates it all. These industries can have rules and regulations all the way from the national level down to state, county, and even city jurisdictions. And it’s different everywhere. It’s like a big bowl of spaghetti.
Some states have strict mandatory training rules from the state level, some say it’s up to the county to decide, and some say it’s just voluntary (except where it’s not)! Some allow different modes of training - like online and classroom - others don’t.
For example, Colorado. Food Handler training is voluntary (except in the 32 counties where it’s required) and Alcohol Seller/Server training is “Voluntary with Mitigating Benefits” (more on that later) except in Boulder - where it’s required, but only in a classroom setting! So how do you know WHAT to do and WHERE to do it? The short answer: make sure you have a training provider who’s an expert in this stuff - so you don’t have to be!
Let’s See Some Examples: (for a state-by-state overview, click here)
- Certified Food Protection Manager: ALL States are on the same page here - they all REQUIRE your establishment to have a “Certified Food Protection Manager” on site at ALL times of operation. A Certified Food Protection Manager is the main point of control within an establishment to ensure that food is being managed safely for the public. The Conference on Food Protection (CFP), which is a consortium of industry regulators, scholars, vendors, and consumers, established the national standards for the certification of food protection managers. CFP hired the accrediting agency, American National Standards Institute (ANSI), to implement an accreditation program for certifying bodies to implement certification exams for the certification of Certified Food Protection Managers. There are currently five accredited companies providing this certification exam, and it has been adopted in all states to become the mandatory gold standard across the country.
- Food Handler: Way different landscape here. Turns out every state, county, and sometimes even city handles (pun intended) these folks and their training differently. For example: seven states, like California and Illinois, mandate ANSI-Accredited food handler certificate training for ALL Food Handlers. Florida and Arkansas require mandatory training, but it doesn’t have to be an ANSI-Accredited program. Others, like Kentucky and Virginia leave it up to the counties to decide. In Texas, food handler training is mandated, but allows either ANSI-Accredited or TX DSHS approved programs. Georgia and Iowa say Food Handler training is entirely voluntary. It can get confusing - especially when you’re operating across a state that has county-level rules, or if you’re operating in multiple states across the country!
- Alcohol Seller/Server: This landscape is very similar to Food Handler - but it’s actually got another layer of variation. Here’s where “Voluntary with Mitigating Benefits”comes in. (Now - “Voluntary with Mitigating Benefits” is different than just plain voluntary, which means it’s up to the business owner or licensee.) Just like many states have Responsible Vendor Programs (RVPs), 19 states have training that is “Voluntary with Mitigating Benefits” which means if you train your employees and can show proof of that training, in the event of an incident - for instance serving underage customers, failing to check ID, or over serving an intoxicated guest - the fines and penalties you’re in for could be greatly reduced or eliminated. In Texas, for example, this relief is commonly referred to as "safe harbor." If an illegal sale is made in Texas, the seller/server might be arrested, but the retailer's permit/license will have protection from administrative action by the TABC.
Another example of the confusion: in Illinois, their Beverage Alcohol Seller/Server Education Training (BASSET) program is mandatory for employees of on-premise licensees but voluntary for off-premise licensees and in Arizona there is different mandatory Title IV training for managers and employees. Enough to make you pull your hair out!
The main point? It’s a maze of regulations, jurisdictional authority, and important laws that COULD get your business shut down. Especially if you’re operating multiple locations across your state or nationwide! As part of your risk management strategy, choose a training provider that’s your partner in this landscape, a regulatory expert and themselves an ally of your regions’ regulatory agencies. A quality training provider will be able to not only answer your regulatory questions easily, but advise you on how to keep your business proactively compliant and mitigate your risks effectively.
Click here to download our eBook “Challenges & Opportunities: Regulatory Compliance Training in the Food & Beverage Industry” to deepen your knowledge about the array of risks, challenges, and consequences - and let us help you with training, tools, and an action plan to mitigate any danger to your business!