Food handling rules

Special certification required for groups that cook and sell meat

For The Record food on the grillNew food-handling rules could affect fundraising groups that cook and sell items such as hamburgers, chili, fried fish or roasted oysters. To reduce foodborne illnesses, the state Health Department is requiring groups to have a certified food protection manager if they are cooking animal products.

For the record, beginning July 1, Little Leagues, swim teams, football boosters and most temporary food vendors have two choices: Someone can take a course and become certified – at a cost of about $150 – or they can switch to selling pre-cooked meats (including hot dogs). Virginia restaurants and food trucks already have to have a certified manager on-site, but the regulations now include temporary food vendors. 


Q: Does this requirement apply to not-for-profit organizations that serve food?

A: Facilities such as churches, fraternal, school and social organizations, organizations exempt from taxation under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and volunteer fire departments, and rescue squads may be exempt from the CFPM requirement if certain conditions are met. If you think your organization may be exempt, contact your local health department. Charitable organizations, such as nonprofit homeless shelters and hunger prevention programs, who engaged in food programs for needy persons are exempt from the CFPM requirement.

Q: What is a certified food protection manager? 

A: A person who has demonstrated proficiency of required knowledge and information by passing a test that is part of an accredited program. That person also must have the supervisory and management responsibility and the authority to direct and control food preparation and service.

Q: How do I find an accredited program?

A: The Virginia Department of Health has a listing on their page of accredited programs.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: Initial certification costs about $150, including materials, and takes about 16 hours. There are in-person classes as well as online courses. Certification can last up to 5 years, and renewals may allow a shorter refresher course.

Q: What can I sell if I don't have a certified food protection manager?

A: Hot dogs, which are fully cooked. You can also heat up pre-cooked meats, like hamburgers or chicken, for example.

Q: Why is this required?

A: The regulations began at the federal level, with the Food and Drug Administration, and have been adopted by the state. Food service establishments that have a certified food protection manager typically have fewer cases of foodborne illness. There have been outbreaks due to temporary food vendors recently. More than 150 people became ill after the Chincoteague Chili and Chowder Cook Off in the fall of 2017. That was blamed on the bacteria salmonella and eventually traced to chowder. An outbreak of gastroenteritis was linked to a chili event in Belleville, Ill., in 2016, and a beer and oyster festival in Ocean City, Md., in 2017.

Q: Are non-profits being targeted?

A: No, restaurants and food trucks already have to comply with this requirement.

Q: I don't even think of the Little League concession as a "temporary food vendor."

A:  Someone there does. Even non-profits are required to get a "Temporary Food Establishment" or TFE permit before an event. You can get more information about Temporary Food Establishments. Groups getting their permits for the season were notified about the new requirement.

Q: What about raw oysters?

A: Not if they're raw — although there are other requirements — but if you are roasting or steaming them, you need the certification.

Q: Can small one-time groups get an exemption?

A: No. There are no exemptions.

Q: What about private events, like a family reunion at a city park?

A: The Health Department does not regulate private events, even large ones held at public facilities.

Q: I have more questions.

A: Please contact the Health Department directly at 757-727-2570 or visit the Virginia Health Department website for more information.