Food handlers can get online certification

County residents watch video, take test, purchase card on their computers

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Clark County residents in need of food worker cards can now learn the information, take the test and purchase the cards from their home computers.

Last month, the Clark County commissioners approved the use of an interactive food safety training program developed by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Beginning last week, Clark County Public Health began offering the program online at http://www.foodworkercard.wa.gov.

The new program is the only online food worker testing approved by the state and county.

“The online system is developed to provide people with the education they need to safely serve food, and it provides flexibility for people to obtain a food worker card,” said Gary Bickett, program manager for public health.

The online program is similar to the test workers take at the health department. The county will still offer the test at the Center for Community Health for those who don’t have access to the Internet or don’t have a credit card, which is needed for online payment, Bickett said.

The online program includes an educational video followed by 31 test questions, just like the traditional method. Workers must still answer 80 percent of the questions correctly (25 questions) in order to pass, Bickett said.

Once a worker passes the test, he or she pays the $10 fee and prints out one copy of his or her food worker card — all from a home computer. The testing process takes about 60 minutes, compared to the 90-minute process at the health department, Bickett said.

The online program is offered in eight languages — English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Mandarin, Cantonese and Russian — and has a closed captioned option.

The new program will save residents time and money since they won’t have to drive to the health department in order to take the test, Bickett said. In addition, fewer visitors to the Center for Community Health will help alleviate congestion in the center’s parking lot, he said.

County officials also expect the change will reduce overhead costs to administer the program at the center. The health department issues about 14,000 food worker cards, which are good for two years, to Clark County residents each year, Bickett said.

Seventy-eight percent of the cards issued by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department have been through the online program since it launched in January. Tacoma-Pierce officials announced this month they would reduce the number of classes offered at the health department because of the success of the online program.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will keep $3 of the $10 card fee to administer the program. The money will be used for maintenance and upgrades of the program, according to Clark County officials.

More than a dozen other Washington counties use the new program.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; marissa.harshman@columbian.com, twitter.com/col_health.