Certified Food Handler (CFH) requirement for food establishments
Since 2002, the state of Indiana has required all restaurants and other “food establishments” to have a certified food handler on their staff to oversee food safety matters and act as a resource and educator for employees about safe food handling practices. In order to obtain the certification, the employee (usually a supervisor, but not mandatory) must pass an exam that is accredited by both The Conference for Food Protection (CFP) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Much of the confusion surrounding certified food handler requirements for non-profits stems from Senate Enrolled Act 190 (SEA 190). Passed in 2007 by the Indiana General Assembly, SEA 190 dramatically changed the definition of “food establishment”, thus affecting its use in IC 16-43-5 (Food Establishment Act) and IC 16-42-5.2 (Food Handler Certification Act). This is important because the definition of a “food establishment” is the basis for determining whether or not a food operation is subject to compliance with certain public health laws and rules, including ones regarding the requirements for a certified food handler. As long as certain conditions are met (the food is not potentially hazardous, origin of the food is from the seller’s property, proper labeling is on packaging, etc), vendors at farmer’s markets or roadside stands selling food to the public are exempt from the food establishment rules. Most non-profits meeting other certain conditions are also exempt.
Non-profits and the law today
As the law currently stands, non-profits that are tax-exempt under IRS code 501(c)(3) they are exempt from the certified food handler requirement. If these entities are religious organizations and non-public educational organizations, they are also exempt from all food safety rules as long as they do not operate a restaurant or cafeteria with an extensive menu. For example, a private-school cafeteria (since it serves an extensive menu) would be considered a “food establishment” and be required to comply with all food safety rules, while most other activities, such as fund raisers, would not have to comply.
Even though an organization is tax-exempt under IRS tax code and is therefore exempt from needing a certified food handler, there is a requirement that the food being served must be centered on an “event” or “celebration” held for the benefit of the organization. Examples of “events” and “celebrations” are, but are not limited to, the following: pitch-ins, funeral dinners, wedding receptions, etc. A concession stand run by a tax-exempt organization would also fall under this category as it is for the benefit of the organization.
Thirty (30) days to fifteen (15) days
In previous years, civic, fraternal, veteran, or charitable organizations were allowed to operate a food operation for 30 days or less per calendar year and not be considered a “food establishment.” However, in 2007, this was changed to 15 calendar days per year. In other words, if a civic, fraternal, veteran, or charitable organization operates a food operation more than 15 days per year, they are considered a food establishment, and therefore are regulated as such. This would include things such as fundraisers where food is being sold to the public. This does not include religious or non-public educational organizations as they fall under a broader exemption.