New Indiana State Food Handler Requirement to Start in January

INDIANAPOLIS -- State health officials report that beginning Jan. 1, 2005, food establishments in Indiana will be required to have at least one certified food handler on staff who has oversight of food safety aspects of the operation. A certified food handler is not required to be present at the food establishment during all hours of operation.


"September is Food Safety Month, so it is an ideal time for us to show our support of this new requirement," said Scott Gilliam, manager of the Food Protection Division at the State Department of Health.


"The Indiana State Department of Health supports the new requirement because the information needed to become a certified food handler will bring a new level of knowledge to the food industry in the state," Gilliam said. "The hope is that Indiana will see reduced incidences of foodborne illness outbreaks in the future."


State health officials report 67 foodborne outbreaks occurred in Indiana over the five-year period of 1999 to 2003. A foodborne outbreak is an incident that is traceable to the ingestion of a contaminated food in which two or more persons have the same disease or clinical symptoms and there is a time, place, or person association among these people.


The Indiana General Assembly passed legislation in 2001 to create the certified food handler requirement, and provided a four-year grace period to allow the industry to develop the training and examination infrastructure. No fees are collected by state government as part of the new requirement.


"Individuals must only pass an accredited test to become a certified food handler," said Gilliam. "Training is not required, but it can improve the likelihood that a person will pass the test."


The new law provides exemptions for assisted and residential care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, and public/private community mental health centers. There are also exemptions in the law for lower-risk food operations, which are based upon the menu.


State health officials report that more than 20,000 Indiana food establishments will still be required to comply with the law. Local health departments will be primarily responsible for overseeing compliance to the new law. Possible penalties for noncompliance could include fines of up to $100 per day.


"There has been significant education and information provided to the food industry in Indiana over the last three years to allow time for effective compliance," said Gilliam. "We anticipate a gradual enforcement policy toward the industry during the first year."


The Indiana State Department of Health does not provide training or administer tests to become a certified food handler.


Source: Indiana State Department of Health