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In most cases, you will need to take a class and pass an examination before you can earn food service sanitation certification. The requirements for obtaining food service sanitation certification can vary from state to state in the United States. In some states, the course is an in-person class, while in others, you can take the course online. Usually, you cannot simply pass the test to earn certification, and you must take a course of some kind.
The state of Illinois, for example, requires that you earn food service sanitation certification by taking a 15-hour course that is approved by the state before you can take the examination. In some cases, the state will waive the required course if you have passed a similar course elsewhere and can provide documentation, including your grade and the syllabus of the course. If you have certification through the Chicago Department of Health, you can earn state-wide food service sanitation certification through reciprocity.
Other states, such as Washington and Oregon, allow you to take an online course to earn food service sanitation certification. In Washington state, it usually takes about an hour to take both the online course and the examination. The online course in Oregon state is composed of a series of videos that lasts 25 minutes, followed by a study section and then the test.
Washington state also gives students the option of taking the course in person in the cities of Seattle or Renton. The state of New York also allows you to choose between attending an online or in-person course. In New York, the in-person course lasts longer and requires you to spend three hours a day over a five-day period in the classroom.
Usually, a fee is involved for the course and the examination. In Illinois, it costs $35 US Dollars (USD) to take the examination. The cost is $10 USD in both Washington and Oregon for the course and the test as of 2011. The in-person course in New York costs more than $100 USD as of 2011, while the online course is free. You will have to pay to take the examination in New York, though.
Topics usually covered in a food service sanitation course and examination include the causes of food-borne illness, how to control contamination, and the importance of cleanliness. Food handlers are taught about the value of hand washing and cooking foods to the proper temperature. Usually to earn certification, you will have to demonstrate that you understand the majority of the topics covered in the course or on the exam. A passing score is usually above 70 or 75 percent.
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