Best Online Food Handler Certification Programs

ServSafe offers the most comprehensive and affordable certification

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Many states and localities require you to hold a food handler permit to work in an environment that prepares or serves food. You’ll likely need to take food safety training to acquire that permit. The best online food handler certificate programs deliver engaging training while teaching you essential food safety practices. 

A certification course should suit your individual needs and learning style. Here are our picks for the best online food handler programs.

Best Online Food Handler Certification Programs of 2021

Best Overall : ServSafe


ServSafe

ServSafe

  • Cost: $15
  • Duration: 50 to 90 minutes 
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
Why We Chose It

The ServSafe Food Handler Certification program from the National Restaurant Association has a stellar reputation among food service professionals. ServSafe’s comprehensive training is affordable and practical for all levels of learners.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Offered by the National Restaurant Association

  • Widely recognized throughout the U.S.

  • Offered in English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and Simplified Chinese

Cons
  • Price is higher than other options

  • No customer support on weekends

  • No money-back guarantee

Overview

The ServSafe Food Handler program was developed by the training arm of the National Restaurant Association, the largest foodservice trade association in the world. The online program includes five learning modules and a 40-question, multiple-choice exam that tests overall comprehension. 

ServSafe’s Food Handler course is designed for anyone involved in food preparation, storage, or service. The program covers basic food safety, personal hygiene, cross-contamination and allergens, safe storage length, proper storage temperature, and cleaning and sanitation. The training is available in English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. 

The online self-study course and final test can be completed in around 50 minutes, though you can train at a pace that’s most comfortable for you. You have 60 days to complete your course once you start it. 

While the ServSafe food handler training is available in all states except Washington, Florida Oregon, the exact rules for earning a food handler card vary by state, city, and county. ServSafe offers a regulatory requirements map that helps you understand regulations in your area.

Best Value : 360 Training


360 Learning

 360 Learning

  • Cost: $7
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
Why We Chose It

The Food Handler program from 360 Training delivers a thorough review of essential food safety concepts plus a final comprehension exam for only $7.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Low price

  • Support offered daily via email, chat, and phone

  • Money-back guarantee

Cons
  • Only offered in English and Spanish

  • Training voiceovers are a bit monotonous

Overview

This course from 360 Training covers just as many if not more food safety topics than other food handler programs, yet it only costs $7. Course participants first receive an introduction to food safety and then dives into subjects including biohazards, food spoilage, contamination, temperature control, food receiving and storage, sanitizing, and pest control.

With 360 Training’s course, you can learn at your own pace and take up to one year to finish the course. You must spend at least 90 minutes on the lessons before you are eligible to take the final exam. Should you fail the exam two times, you’ll need to retake the course, but you won’t incur an extra charge to do so. 

This course is backed by 360 Training’s money-back guarantee. Refunds are allowed within 72 hours of purchasing the program provided you’ve not completed more than 50% of the course. 

Note that the basic 360 Training Food Handler course does not meet regulatory requirements in  Utah, Florida, Ohio, or San Diego County. However, the company offers other location-specific programs that may suit your needs. This Food Handler online course is not available in Oregon or Washington state.

Best for Beginners : Responsible Training


Responsible Training

Responsible Training

  • Cost: $6.99 to $12.99
  • Duration: 1 to 2 Hours
  • Level: Beginners to advanced
Why We Chose It

Responsible Training’s Food Handler certification course covers food safety basics and features simple, straightforward lessons that make it the perfect training for beginners.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Easy-to-understand lessons

  • Money-back guarantee

  • Excellent customer service via phone, email, and chat

Cons
  • No course preview available

  • No customer support on weekends

Overview

The Responsible Training Food Handler course teaches participants the fundamentals of food safety. You’ll learn how to prevent food-borne illnesses, the importance of hygiene, how to safely accept and store food, the right way to maintain a safe environment, and more.

This course contains six lessons and a final exam. Each lesson includes a five-question quiz to verify you understand important concepts before you advance in the class. These quizzes set up even true beginners for success on the final certifying exam. You’ll need a score of 70% or higher to pass the final test, but you can take it as many times as you’d like. You must complete the course within six months of registering.

The program is available in English and Spanish; it’s also offered in Simplified Chinese in some states. The certification is valid in most states and you can use the site’s handy state drop-down menu to determine if the program is recognized in your region.

Responsible Training takes customer satisfaction seriously. Customer support is offered through phone, email, and online chat. Refunds are permitted for any reason, as long as you haven’t attempted the final exam.

Best Self-Paced : The Always Food Safe Company


The Always Food Safe Company

The Always Food Safe Company

  • Cost: $10 to $13
  • Duration: 2 Hours
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
Why We Chose It

This course from The Always Food Safe Company (TASFC) is 100% video-based, which makes for a highly engaging, self-paced learning experience.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 100% video-based learning

  • Highly engaging training lessons

  • Available in English and Spanish

Cons
  • No money-back guarantee

  • Customer support only available through email

Overview

If you’re looking for self-paced training, you want a practical program that will keep you engaged. The TASFC online Food Handler Certification features training modules filmed in professional catering kitchens. Learners are introduced to simulated food safety scenarios that bring the learning to life. Lessons are taught with a healthy degree of humor to make for an enjoyable learning experience.

Topics covered include food safety and the law, food hazards, allergens, time and temperature controls, safe food storage, food pests, cleaning, front-of-house safety, and personal hygiene. The course takes about two hours to complete. After you complete the lessons, you must earn a score of 83% or better on the final 40-question exam to earn your Food Handler Certificate. 

You can start and stop the lessons, though you must complete the course and the final test within 30 days of initiating the training. You can take and fail the test up to three times; after that, you must pay for the course again.

This course is available in areas that accept online Food Handler Certification training. The Always Food Safe Company website’s drop-down menu makes it easy to see whether this specific training is available in your area.

Best for Spanish Language : eFoodHandlers


 eFoodHandlers

 eFoodHandlers

  • Cost: $7 to $10
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
Why We Chose It

Spanish-speaking learners will appreciate the video modules and interactive exercises in this course that accommodates all learning styles.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Available in Spanish and English

  • Money-back guarantee

  • Unlimited retests

Cons
  • No chat support on weekends

  • No telephone support

Overview

EFoodHandlers’ training introduces you to essential food safety concepts. You’ll learn the fundamentals of safety, including temperature control, how to avoid cross-contamination, the how-to’s of safe cleaning and sanitizing, and the top 10 mistakes food workers make that jeopardize food safety.

Like all quality online certification programs, this training concludes with a final exam. You’ll need to score 70% or better on the 40-question final exam to pass, but you can take the test as many times as you’d like at no additional charge. 

This training comes with a money-back guarantee. Refund requests must be made via email within 30 days of purchasing the course. You cannot receive a refund after completing 50% or more of the course or once you’ve started the final course exam. 

Live chat and email support are offered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. PT. Phone support is not available.

EFoodHandlers training is available in most but not all regions of the United States. To see if this training certifies you as a food handler in your area, simply access the state drop-down menu on the eFoodHandlers' course website.

Best for Food Management : ServSafe


ServSafe

ServSafe

  • Cost: $125 to $179
  • Duration: 8 to 12 hours 
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
Why We Chose It

The National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Manager course delivers flexible, affordable, and practical food safety training for food management.  

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Flexible self-paced format

  • Customer support via phone, text, and chat

  • Online final exam proctoring available

Cons
  • No money-back guarantee

  • No customer support on weekends

  • Course only available in English and Spanish

Overview

The ServSafe Online Manager Course is designed for managers and supervisors who are responsible for food safety. On average, students complete the program in eight to 12 hours. The self-paced format allows you to start, stop, and resume the course at any time, though you must complete your course within 90 days of launching it. 

The online course covers a wide variety of topics, including food safety best practices, cleaning and sanitizing, safe methods of thawing, cooking, cooling, and reheating food, and hazard analysis. The ServSafe Manager’s Certificate is recognized in most areas that require a  Food Protection Manager Certificate. To see if it is valid in your region, refer to ServSafe’s regulatory requirements map.

You can purchase the online course for just $125, but that doesn’t include the fees for the certifying exam and the required exam proctoring services. Your best value is to buy the online ServSafe Manager bundle for $179, which includes the course, exam, and ProctorU fees. 

To earn your ServSafe Food Manager Certificate, you will need to correctly answer 60 of the 80 multiple-choice questions on the final exam. You can take the certifying exam up to two times in 30 days. If you fail the exam on your second attempt, you will need to wait 60 days before attempting the final exam again. Your ServSafe Manager Certification is good for five years. 

While the online course is only available in English and Spanish, the certifying exam is also available in Simplified Chinese. All exam proctors deliver instructions in English only, though you can submit an exam accommodation request should that pose a difficulty for you.

Final Verdict

We named the ServSafe Food Handler Online Certification the best overall choice for several reasons. It’s hosted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and there’s simply no other training company with such extensive food handling experience. The course is available in five languages. Plus, in more than 4,000 reviews, former students give ServSafe a 4.5-star rating.  

Compare the Best Online Food Handler Certification Programs

Company Program Format Cost Duration Level
ServSafe
Best Overall
Self-study $15 50–90 minutes Beginner to advanced
360 Training
Best Value 
Self-study  $7  90–120 minutes  Beginner to advanced 
Responsible Training
Best for Beginners 
Self-study  $6.99–$12.99  1–2 hours  Beginner to advanced 
The Always Food Safe Company
Best Self-paced 
Self-study  $10–$13  2 hours  Beginner to advanced 
eFoodHandlers
Best for Spanish Language 
Self-study  $7–$10  1 hour  Beginner to advanced 
ServSafe
Best for Food Management 
Self-study + proctored exam  $125–$179  8–12 hours  Intermediate to advanced 

How to Choose the Best Online Food Handler Certification Programs

Certain attributes make some online food handler certification programs better than others. Here the most important things to consider to ensure you make the best training choice for your needs.  

  • Valid in Your Area: You don’t want to buy a training program that isn’t valid in your state, city, or county. Research certification and licensing regulations in your area prior to purchasing your online food handler training.  
  • Language: Are you more comfortable speaking or reading in a language that isn’t English? Make sure the training you select is delivered in your preferred language.
  • Customer Support: If you have a question, will you be able to get an answer? Consider how customer support is delivered and when it’s available.
  • Customer Reviews: People who’ve already taken the certification course know what they liked or didn’t like about the program. Listen to what former students say about the program you’re considering.
  • Refund Policy: What happens if you start a program only to find it isn’t right for you? You’re out of luck if the provider doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee.
  • Course Access: Be clear on how long you’ll have access to the course. Some certification providers grant you more extended access to their programs than others.
  • Rules Surrounding the Final Exam: Check out how many times you can take a final exam. 
  • Overall Value: Review total enrollment costs in light of the overall value you receive. Sometimes the lowest price isn’t the best option.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Requirements for an Online Food Handler Certification Program?

The requirements for food handler certification vary by state, city, and county. Most food handler training providers offer guidance on whether their certifications are suitable for your area. Before purchasing a program, check with your local licensing entity to verify that a certification course meets the criterion for obtaining a food handler card or license that’s valid in your area.

Is It Worth Getting an Online Food Handler Certification? 

Most regions in the United States require some sort of food handler training; many require a certificate or license. If you’re planning on getting a job that involves preparing or serving food, you may have to obtain a food handler certificate.

A food handler certification can lead to a career with a range of salaries depending on the path you choose. In general, full-time food service workers in the U.S. earn an average of $26,070 a year. Due to their specialization, chefs can earn double that amount, averaging $53,380 annually. Finally, if you're interested in management, food and beverage managers can earn an average of $56,590 a year.

What Is the Typical Path to Online Food Handler Certification?

Individuals typically pursue their online food handler certification after being hired at an establishment that prepares or serves food. Most areas require training before one commences work, while others allow a short grace period. It’s wise to verify the exact certification rules with your local licensing entity.  

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Food Handler Certification?

The food handler licensing authority in your area may have specific rules about the minimum number of hours you must devote to food safety training. In most cases, however, no more than two hours of training is required. 

Methodology

We reviewed over a dozen online Food Handler Certification programs and focused on those that offer the greatest value for your training investment. The best programs tailor their training to meet the certification and licensing regulations for a wide variety of states, cities, and counties.

We considered the depth and breadth of food safety course content, total enrollment costs, course duration, length of course access, and testing requirements. Customer support and ratings from past class participants also factored into our rankings of the best of the best.

Naturally, the best online food handler course for you will depend on your specific needs and learning preferences. Acquiring your certification online is incredibly convenient, provided your local licensing authority recognizes the online certification program.

Article Sources

  1. National Restaurant Association. "About." Accessed June 23, 2021. 

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Food Preparation Workers." Accessed on June 24, 2021.

  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Chefs and Head Cooks." Accessed on June 24, 2021.

  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Food Service Managers." Accessed on June 24, 2021.