Certified Food Protection Manager: EXPLAINED

Part of Washington State's 2022 update to the retail food code, the addition of "Certified Food Protection Manager" (which begins enforcement, March 1st, 2023) requires every foodservice operation to have at least one person trained and certified as someone with "Active Managerial Control".

This interview covers what many restaurant operators are wondering:

  • Where does one go for certification?
  • What skills and knowhow would that impart?
  • How does a restaurant ensure they're compliant with this regulation?
  • What roles and responsibilities will a Certified Food Protection Manager have?
  • How will this influence a restaurant's relationship with their local health inspector?

[scroll for transcript of this interview]

Susan has been a welcome, non-judgmental, and enthusiastic ally for us at Harbor Foods as well as for many Restaurateurs who have reached out for personalized guidance. At her request, we're sharing Susan's contact information and extending an invitation for you and your team to reach out:

Susan Shelton




[00:00:00] Hi everybody. Andy Cook with Harbor Food Service and with me on this recording is Susan Shelton from the Washington State's health Department. And so let me just say hello and welcome to Susan. Hello, Susan. Welcome.

[00:00:11] Thank you very much, Andy. Good to be here.

[00:00:13] Susan, will you tell us what your role is at the State Health Department?

[00:00:16] I am one of the primary individuals that help write the retail food code. So we do that about every eight years, and I'll probably gimme your primary contact for that. I also help with interpretation. So we have 35 local health jurisdictions across the state, and if they have [00:00:30] questions or if industry has questions, then I can help provide interpretation.

[00:00:33] So the rationale behind the code requirements that we have. I also assist with education and training. and I also specialize in produce safety. Wow. You're like standing in the middle of a lot of things, aren't you? We have a lot of hats. Cool. Well to anyone listening, I just wanna say out loud that it's really, I'm, I was really grateful that I made contact with Susan about a year ago trying to get

[00:00:56] cleaner information from someone who knows about the [00:01:00] changes to the retail food code. And I'll provide a link if I can, in this, in this recording, so that people can go and listen to the conversations that Susan and I had about some of the major changes and where we just kind of deconstructed some complex concepts into plain speak.

[00:01:15] And a lot of. Found it very useful, but now I want to probably dig down to the Certified Food Protection Manager. That was probably one of the, the bigger changes to this round of updates. And it's going into enforcement very soon and a lot of people are really [00:01:30] curious about what do they need to do to be compliant.

[00:01:32] And then I wanna talk about what does compliance mean after, after you have that Certified Food Protection Manager certification. So, Susan, tell us more about. . Yeah. So this is a relatively, it's actually been in the code for some time. It's always been in there as a req. A re a recommendation though, instead of a requirement.

[00:01:49] Mm-hmm. . And so it's been a component of what we call demonstration of knowledge. One of the key steps that you have in order to make sure that your managers and your persons in charge have the knowledge and skills able to [00:02:00] control food safety risks. So it's not just that they can fix things when they go wrong, it's hopefully so that they can actually, actually prevent them from getting elevated to that point.

[00:02:08] So they identify something that could go wrong and they fix it, become before it come becomes a problem. So it's kinda like having someone connected to your business who is your own private health inspector. I think that's a great way to look at it. Okay. And that's really our goal is to have you have someone that can look at your processes, your procedures, your training, everything to go Yes, we are spot on here.

[00:02:27] Cause sometimes when you're working in the field it's, [00:02:30] you get a little bit attached to it. And so sometimes it's nice to step back a little bit and have that certified free protection manager that can look at things with a pretty critical eye. Before I started consulting being a restaurant consultant with Harbor Food Service, I was working in the communications team at the Washington Hospitality Association where Surf Safe Manager which part of the Surf Safe Suite from National Restaurant Association.

[00:02:51] And which by the way, we should talk about this in the it's not the only certification that that's available. There's like five or six others. Correct. There's a total of seven currently. Okay. [00:03:00] Available. Cool. Yeah. So just because I'm talking about Serve Safe, it doesn't mean that that's your only path forward.

[00:03:05] It's just sort of the name brand. It's like Coca-Cola, that, but here, here's my point. When I was with the association, this was like five or six years ago, people were doing Serve Safe Manager for for their managers, things like that. Can you help me understand why would somebody do that if they don't, if they didn't?

[00:03:20] Yeah, so I hope everyone thinks of education as a good stepping stone, right? To get a little bit better with all of our career paths. So I think a lot of people were doing it for education. A lot of [00:03:30] corporate food establishments required it. They wanted managers to have that additional level of training.

[00:03:34] So Surf safe and the other certificate providers, actually, their training off often encompasses more. Basic food safety, it applies to the knowledge. And so it also helps give suggestions and guidance for how to become a better manager, how to provide training for staff, how to oversee them, how to provide correction if things are going incorrectly.

[00:03:52] So it goes above and beyond what we actually have in our basic food safety training. And that hopefully it also instills some levels of confidence [00:04:00] and you know, additional help for managers that have additional, additional responsibilities. Yeah, that's kind of what I was hoping to uncover is those extra components, that it's not just about a new rule that we want to, that we wanna pile onto a bunch of other rules.

[00:04:16] It's not a, it's not a money grab or some bureaucratic flex. There's more to this a, it's about public safety right off the top, but behind the certification. If this connects to a lot of labor, there's not a lot of, there's not a lot of waste for someone in food [00:04:30] service to be certified. And this is one of them.

[00:04:31] But what I, what I'm glad that you brought up was that there is leadership development built into these certification programs. It's not just about here are the rules make people follow them. It's, here are the rules, here are some strategies of change to get you from you know, somewhere iffy into somewhere.

[00:04:50] I think so, and I think that's exactly what we want people to get out of these certifications. So it's not just to check the box as you identified. It's to actually develop that, that skillset [00:05:00] and to practice that skillset and to actually implement it when you're act out in the field. And so, yes, the, the, the.

[00:05:05] Key goal here is that you learn those concepts and I think your example of leadership skills is, is what's really important here. So you're one of the ones that's actually helping to implement change and provide correction and, and keep it moving forward in a positive manner. And I think if that's our goal for having the Certified Food Protection Manager is that we develop that skillset and make sure it is maintained and you have sustainable infrastructure in each food establishment.

[00:05:28] Cool. So it's not just [00:05:30] about enforcement and punishment, it's about development, right? Yeah. About moving things in the right direction. Correct. We actually hope that it's a little bit more so that it fosters some mentorship potentially as well, so we. actually only require one per establishment.

[00:05:44] Cuz we expect that certified food manager then to mentor all of the other persons in charge. Right? So while some businesses might require all of their managers to get a certificate, which is, which is good, we actually, our code only unnecessarily requires that just one person per establishment. Because [00:06:00] again, it's, the intent is that that mentorship builds the management team and the food safety culture.

[00:06:05] inside that establishment. Yeah. And, and so that's a really, I think, key component is we really want people to think of this as paying it forward. You get your certificate and then you start, you know, helping others get to that same level of knowledge and, and confidence. Does this person need to be on my payroll or is this person someone that I can contract?

[00:06:23] Yeah, so the way it's written in the code is can be somebody that's under contract with you. So they don't necessarily have to be on your payroll [00:06:30] directly. They don't have to be inside of one of your, one of your facilities. Actually, that probably works out better if you have somebody that's actually on your staff, but it could be somebody that you contract with.

[00:06:38] Before I get into sort of the big thing that I, that I, that I want to get into let's talk about the next step, which is how do I get certified Now you don't have to go in person, do you? No. Each of the certification providers actually have an online system as well. So they. Some of them offer an online training mechanism that you can use, so you can sign up for an online [00:07:00] self-paced course.

[00:07:00] So it's, it's directed at your own speed. Some also have a manual, and all of them though, you don't necessarily even need to attend the training. So if it's, if you've been previously trained, you feel confident with the material, you take some of the self. Test, and you're like, no, I, I understand this.

[00:07:14] You can go directly to the certification to take in the exam. Sure, correct. But if you do need, if you do need training, you're, you are correct. It's, it's difficult right now potentially to find an in-person. They do offer them it will be probably, you'll have to travel to the location if you want to have the in-person, mm-hmm.

[00:07:28] training. But [00:07:30] you do also have some online capacity and some self-study as well if you wanna use a manual or other materials. Right. And you sent me a document. Gave me like a list of like seven of them that mm-hmm. are all sort of certified. We don't need to talk about all that. I will I will find a way to share them with this recording.

[00:07:48] For those of you that are kind of racing the clock to get to that, you know, To be compliant on paper you know, within a couple of weeks. Online is probably the best way to go. Following up on that point, just getting, maybe your aspiration is to have [00:08:00] one or two people per location. If you have more than one location to stay compliant, get that one person in there, right?

[00:08:05] That's the best. That's good advice. And then circle back on the next person, you know, after the fact if you need to. Right. Yeah, that'd probably be what I would do. I'd probably have it, you can also stagger it a little bit. The certificates usually last for five years. Mm-hmm. , so you can maybe consider about having it staggered so that you would always have a certified food manager on staff, and then maybe in six months you would have to have the next person update their certificate.

[00:08:25] So probably staggered would work pretty well for people. Yeah, that's actually pretty good [00:08:30] advice to have sort of a a succession. So we understand that it, this is happening. We have a pretty good idea of why it's happening and you know what you gotta do to get it. But now that you, now that you got it, let's say we're in April or May or something like that, I have my certified Food protection manager.

[00:08:47] What then? I mean, I can only imagine there's some people regulation fatigue after a few years of Covid. They're like, oh, there's another thing I gotta do. I got my guy certified check done. There's more to it than that. Right? What do you, what does a [00:09:00] certified person do? Is there a schedule that they should be following?

[00:09:02] Is there a log that they should be a log book that they should be keeping up on? What's best practice on this? You know, we'll always recommend that managers keep a log so they can communicate, keep track, trend information that they're getting, you know, if they've gotten any complaints that they've had, employee illnesses, if they've had a recall that they had to respond to if they had a equipment go down.

[00:09:20] We'll always recommend that, but that's not a new requirement necessarily for the Certified Food Protection Manager. I think if I had a brand new certified food protection manager, I would. I want you to look over these [00:09:30] changes to the food code and make sure all of our policies and procedures are compliant.

[00:09:33] Mm-hmm. There is one right now that's brand new, and we talked about it a year ago, but it's the cleanup of vomiting, diarrhea. That may be, that's what I thought you were gonna say. Yes. , you know? Mm-hmm. , because it's the new one that we have that's required to be written. And so we really wanna make sure people are aware of that and they have a, a plan and a procedure and a kit for how they would clean up a potential event.

[00:09:54] So yes, I would totally get my certified fee prediction manager to look through the changes to the food code and say, where do we [00:10:00] need to make changes? Are we still compliant with this code? I would then say, you know what? Look through my last inspections. Go through these last year, or two or three of it, our inspection reports and see if you can find a trend.

[00:10:10] See if you can see something where we have an issue where. Didn't get it fully completed or see if we're still getting them corrected so that they're still in good shape, you know? So start looking along those lines and then reach out to my persons in charge and say, Hey, how are staff doing it? Do you see a gap?

[00:10:24] Or we potentially need to do some training. You know, maybe they're starting to see your, your managers are starting to see that [00:10:30] people aren't washing their hands. Like you said, you've had a lot of turnovers like, we need to retrain on this. We've lost some of our staff that had years of. And said, now we kind of need to revisit things that we would've considered basic before.

[00:10:41] You know, so I would just really get your manager to start looking at current operation, make sure it's compliant with code. Look through your policies and procedures. Make sure that you have at least that vomiting, diarrhea, cleaned up plan in writing. And then start looking toward what kind of training do we need to do?

[00:10:54] Check in with your, your managers that are on shift. So kind of do a self-inspection, right? Mm-hmm. . So look at some of the things that we [00:11:00] would look at as food inspectors say, okay, wait, I want you to go through and, and look at some of this as well. And again, it's really important to have that kind of, that objective eye kind of step back and not necessarily be the person that's doing the work, but the one to actually evaluate it and look for the risks, just like your inspectors would, or, maybe your customers would when they come into your stores.

[00:11:19] Right? Well, I think that's kind of a, that could be a potentially important point for a number of people. Drill down on. And that is just because you're a certified food protection manager doesn't mean that you have to fix everything. It might [00:11:30] even be better that that you're more, that you take a role of more of a change agent.

[00:11:34] You know, it's probably the hardest thing to do as a manager. Yeah. At least when I work with people, it's probably the hardest thing for them to do. , they're just like, I wanna fix this, and, but you're exactly. It, it's, it's really good if you could instill in, in your certified food manager or you know, your store managers or someone to go wait, you need a step back and you need to help them figure out how to fix this permanently, how to do that change like you talked about, because it's, if the Certified Food manager does that, [00:12:00] then you're right, it'll probably.

[00:12:01] Stop there and it won't implement change across the, across the brand, or it won't be sustainable, right? So I think that's a really good angle for people to look at it, to say, okay, wait. This person's gonna be a little bit objective and, and then we're gonna figure out a long term fix for this. And in our line of work, we find that if it's the manager that fixes it, it often is what we turn in.

[00:12:19] what's called a repeated violation. Yeah. It's a repeated occurrence because it's like, no, it didn't actually solve it go, didn't go back and, and identify what the actual issue was. It just fixed the short-term [00:12:30] problem, but it didn't fix the long-term cause And so, yes, I think that's an important own that we all have to have or like, wait, I need to kind of step back and, and delegate this or, or implement change a different way.

[00:12:41] Is there a sort of a requirement, a structure that someone needs to follow when they have their certified Food Protection Manager? I just want to, I think you answered this. I just wanna clarify it. That is there a schedule they need to follow? There's no logbook, but will someone ever come in and, and, you know, say, can I talk to your Certified Food Protection Manager?

[00:12:57] And then they're gonna ask this person questions. Is there anything like, [00:13:00] So what we'll look for whenever we go into a food establishment is kinda like your food worker cards. We'll ask to see a copy of the certificate for your certified Food Protection Manager. Mm-hmm. . So you'll wanna make sure that is one of the accredited certifications and that it's posted.

[00:13:13] Does it have to be a physical copy? Yes. , okay. Has to be physical copy on file and accessible. Got it. Great. Right. And it could just be a photocopy, but it does have to be there so we can actually look at it. And that'll, that'll be like our food worker card check. However, where it will also come into [00:13:30] play is if we go through our inspection, we identify quite a few or repeated issues.

[00:13:35] So maybe you have issues with temperature control. You have workers that aren't washing the hands at appropriate times. Maybe the temperatures again aren't, aren't correct. Maybe you know, they don't have a thermometer. A whole bunch of things kind of pile up and we're gonna say, okay, who is your, who is your certified reproduction manager?

[00:13:50] We need to talk to this individual to make sure they're aware of this inspection and that they compare and go. Yes, we can correct these long-term. However, in general, it's probably gonna be working with the person in [00:14:00] charge. It's gonna be something that can be corrected immediately. It's not a recurrent issue.

[00:14:03] It didn't happen multiple times, and so it's just gonna be something that's a spot check and, and work with the person in charge. However, we would encourage that person in charge to reach out to the Certified Food Protection Manager to get a long-term correction. Right. You know, we, they might also get called if.

[00:14:17] If it's something that, you know, through repeated inspection hasn't gotten corrected, we're like, you're gonna indeed need to use your certified Food protection manager to provide a correction here. Gotcha. Okay. So does [00:14:30] this, does this change the di the dynamic between a restaurant and their health inspector?

[00:14:34] Well, so I hope if, if anything, it makes it even better because now you have, like you said, you have somebody that has, that speaks the same language potentially that we do when we're so, you know, food code centric. Also has that same level of, you know, objectivity to say, oh yes, I see what you're talking about here.

[00:14:50] And yet they can also talk the restaurant language, you know, to actually be able to go, oh, this is how we, you know, Do our procedures. This is how we do our policies. So they'll, they'll [00:15:00] have that culture that they can bring in. And so it's, it's the two languages that'll be able to communicate effectively.

[00:15:05] So hopefully it helps the restaurant and the, the restaurant owners and the managers feel more confident, go, yes, we have, you know, we've done all this work. We see where we've potentially had some gaps. We see some areas where we fixed our policies or maybe creative policies and procedures to be better train.

[00:15:20] So hopefully it makes it a much more positive. Yeah, but I've had people that were excited to show, you know the health department, what they were working on and things that they were doing and to [00:15:30] ask, and, and that's ideal for I think both of us. You know, how do we make it so that it's like both of us have the same end goal?

[00:15:37] We, we want. , you know, to prevent food barns and keep your customers coming back safe and happy. Right. So, you know, it's, it's that tool to help us develop that. And I think the Certified Food Protection Manager, again, it's not the certificate per se that's going to help you with that. It's actually taking that level of knowledge and that level of motivation and applying it to your business and all your workers at work there.

[00:15:58] Just one quick [00:16:00] other follow up question on that point is, I'm kind of making a jump here, so you know, correct me if I'm jumping too far, but in the classic sense, a health inspector shows up, they do their inspection. Then let's just say it's bad. How is this different? Now you have a certified food protection vendor.

[00:16:13] What I heard you say is that now a health inspector could come in if they start seeing, there's some trends that are just keep on continuing. They wanna talk to the Certified Food Protection Manager about this. Is that how is and is that. It's really gonna change depending on the situation. So we really do try to [00:16:30] work with each food establishment separately.

[00:16:32] Right. So based on your unique foods, your menus, your operations, your staff, we try to really make sure, cuz something that works at one food establishment is not gonna work at a different food establishment. We're, we're all a little bit different. So with a, a food inspector would've complete an inspection.

[00:16:46] And they identify, again, quite a few risks, I would say. They would work with a person in charge and say, okay, wait a second. We, we identified these risks and some of them appear to be systemic. So something that's just not just a one-off, not something that just happened a little [00:17:00] bit. It was pretty, you know, pretty egregious or something that appears to need quite a bit of change.

[00:17:05] We would say, you know what? , you're gonna need to come up with a long-term correction here. We encourage you to work with your Certified Food Protection Manager. However, if we were to come in and so now we do the second visit and it's like, okay, I can tell they're not corrected and it's not fixed, or you have additional systemic issues we can tell that we have a gap here.

[00:17:21] We would likely say we would also want to talk with your certified Food Protection Manager. So usually what that would be though is, you know, whether the. [00:17:30] Person in charge, the manager that's on shift could connect. It could be something that's set up through an appointment. It could be just making sure that the Certified Food Protection Manager resolves the long-term corrections that are needed.

[00:17:40] It could come, come up with quite a few different avenues. But. , but in general it would be your staff working with the Certified Food Protection Manager, not specifically the health department, reaching out to the certified food manager directly. So the way the, the way that a restaurant connects to their health inspectors or, you know, health departments doesn't really change, but now they have sort of an ally they have [00:18:00] sort of that, that person, that extra person on their side to help ensure safety.

[00:18:04] Right. And we're hoping that that person brings quite a bit of level of knowledge and understanding of the retail side. Yeah. You know, so that they can say, okay, this is where we wanna go. And we're like, okay. Yes. What you're doing is, is a safe way to get there. Right. And by retail side, we're talking about restaurants, right?

[00:18:18] Correct. Have we missed anything important do you think? So I think the questions I'm getting you now are, you know, how do I get my certificate? So I think we've covered that pretty well. Okay. I, I really do appreciate the, the focus on, it's not [00:18:30] just a one and done. The, the, the goal here is not to have a certificate.

[00:18:33] That's the requirement. I agree. Mm-hmm. . But the goal is to actually implement what we call active managerial control. Use the knowledge, use the information that you get from the certification program. and actually implement it and roll with it. And so really want to make sure that everyone kind of takes that and starts to run with it and actually make sure that they look at each of the different you know, all the employees, the training, the policies, everything to make sure it's working to your benefit.[00:19:00]

[00:19:00] Cool. I'm gonna do a quick summary from my notes. We talked about what it is. We, we, we know what it is, right? It's getting a, a food manager certification. We talked about how to do it. You, you can do it in person or online. And I'm gonna try to provide those resources in along with this recording for whoever decides they wanna listen to it.

[00:19:18] We talked about what. How this helps you set up goals, your goals for implementing compliance, food safety, compliance. And I, I just wanna recap a few things that you said that this person could be [00:19:30] doing or you could be tasking this person to do, because I thought it was really smart. You got your certified Food protection manager and you're asking them to go over the retail food code to ensure that, that we haven't missed anything in our restaurant.

[00:19:42] And the one of the examples you gave was the having. Cleanup kit for vomit and diarrhea. Look over your past inspections, your past health inspections to look for trends that you can start to make some, make some changes on. Start thinking about different ways that you can train your people to address some patterns that you might be seeing [00:20:00] and to stay on top of policy updates.

[00:20:02] Is there anything else that comes to mind that you'd like to add to that list? I think it's a pretty good list person. Yeah. And I guess just the last one is just the communication, right? So making sure that they're both informing the permit holder and the owner, but then also all of the other supervisors and then the staff.

[00:20:16] You know, there's a, there's a lot we recognize. We don't expect perfection in food establishments, but we definitely expect, you know, knowledge and applicable you know, practice practices so that we can reduce the food illness. So keep that communication going because you have a lot of people working [00:20:30] on behalf of your business and say, we wanna make sure they're all in the.

[00:20:33] Same loop of conversation and there's no requirement to keep a log, but it's a really good idea to keep a log, right? Correct. Yeah. And to make sure that you have a physical copy of that certification on premises and that you communicate with your certified through Protection manager if they're not specifically on staff.

[00:20:52] Right. Right. Cause Cause they don't have to be specific on staff. They can be. They can be like a contract, but it's better to have somebody on staff. Mm-hmm.[00:21:00] . Okay. This is great Susan. Thank you very much. I just really wanna throw out that we really do want to see everyone succeed, so we do hope this is another tool to get you to, success.

[00:21:10] Perfect. If you have any questions though, you can always reach out. You know what, I'm already sharing stuff on this. I'll show your contact information too. Okay, perfect. Thank you, Andy. Cool. T