SACRAMENTO – The enactment of SB 602, which is being called “a landmark piece of food-safety legislation” authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and recently signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is being applauded by the California Restaurant Association. The new law requires all employees who handle food in restaurants earn a California Food Handler Card.

Since approximately half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point in their lives and California is home to more than 1.4 million food industry jobs, SB 602 will, over time, improve food safety in commercial and residential kitchens alike, CRA relays.

“Food safety is a top priority for all restaurateurs because it is the very basis of our relationship with our patrons,” said Tom Ferdinandi, chairman of the CRA Board of Directors and executive vice president and chief operations officer of Fresno-based Milano Restaurant International Corp. “We thank Senator Alex Padilla and Governor Schwarzenegger for engaging us in this process and for recognizing this was an opportunity to achieve a positive result for consumers, restaurant employees and owners, and state and local regulators.”

SB 602 requires restaurant employees to get a California Food Handler Card after passing a training and test within 30 days of hire. The card will be accepted throughout California 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% 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 + 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.”