The California Restaurant Association is giving two freshly scrubbed thumbs up to the enactment of SB 602, landmark food safety legislation written by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The new law requires that all employees who handle food in restaurants earn a California Food Handler Card. The state is home to more than 1.4 million food industry jobs.

“Food safety is a top priority for all restaurateurs because it is the very basis of our relationship with our patrons,” Tom Ferdinandi, chairman of the CRA Board of Directors and executive vice president and chief operations officer of Fresno-based Milano Restaurant International Corp., said in a statement. The CRA has more than 22,000 member restaurants.

SB 602 requires restaurant employees to get a California Food Handler Card after undergoing training and passing a test within 30 days of hire. The card will be accepted throughout state and be valid for three years. The legislation is modeled after similar programs in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The state of Florida has reported a 79 percent reduction in foodborne illness outbreaks since implementation of a similar law.

“SB 602 is lawmaking at its best: All stakeholders were at the table, working together toward a shared goal of ensuring food safety,” CRA President and CEO Jot Condie said. “We wanted a common-sense approach to training restaurant employees to safely handle food and to avoid a patchwork of local regulations. SB 602 achieves both of these goals.”

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