Food Handler Certification Course: What Does It Cover?

Explore the essential food safety practices featured in the CIFS Food Handler Certification course curriculum.
What does the Food Handler course cover?
April 18, 2024

Food Handlers play an integral role in the prevention of food-borne illnesses. With the relevant training and food safety procedures in place, they can protect the well-being of consumers to the best of their ability.

The Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS) delivers an extensive curriculum as part of the Food Handler Certification Course. The topics included are designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills to meet food safety standards.

In this blog, we will discuss the key aspects of this course so that you know what to expect before enrolling with CIFS.

Why Is Food Handler Training Important?

Approximately four million cases of food-borne illness are reported annually in Canada, predominantly due to improper food handling. While most individuals experience only minor discomfort, some cases can be severe, leading to hospitalization or even death in extreme instances. 

Food Handler training is essential: it ensures that Food Handlers can recognize common causes of food-borne illnesses and take appropriate action to prevent them.

Food Handler Certification Course Curriculum

The Food Handler Certification Course is divided into three easy-to-follow units containing several interactive lessons.

This government-approved curriculum is designed to equip you with a comprehensive understanding of food safety that can be translated into responsible food handling practices in the workplace.

Module 1: Understanding Food Safety

During this module, you will explore the causes of food-borne illnesses and food contamination, including biological, physical, chemical and cross-contamination, before reviewing high-risk customer groups and learning the steps for handling food allergy incidents.

Lesson 1

The first lesson of this module introduces you to the three types of contamination that can make food unsafe and cause a food-borne illness.

Lesson 2

Lesson 2 discusses bacteria, which is one of the microorganisms that can cause food-borne illness. Bacterial contamination is thought to be the most common cause of food poisoning worldwide.

Lesson 3

In this lesson, you will learn more about perishable foods, and about other microorganisms that fall under biological contamination, including viruses, parasites, protozoa, fungi and prions.

Lesson 4

This lesson explores the other types of contamination (physical and chemical) and closely examines cross-contamination.

Lesson 5

In this lesson, you will learn about the seriousness of food-borne illness, high-risk customer groups and how to handle food-borne illness complaints. 

Lesson 6

The final lesson in this module discusses food allergies and how to handle food allergy incidents. Topics include the identification of common food allergens and the symptoms associated with an allergic reaction.

Module 2: Preventing Food-Borne Illness

In this module, you will learn about food safety laws, as well as techniques for preventing food-borne illnesses, including the importance of personal hygiene and workplace behaviour. You will also learn about temperature zones, time control, and food thermometers. After that, there is an opportunity to review maintenance, cleaning and sanitizing procedures for food premises.

Lesson 7

The first lesson of this module covers food safety laws and responsibilities in Canada, including who is responsible for food safety in Canada, federal laws and requirements, and province and territory laws and requirements.

Lesson 8

This lesson explores the importance of maintaining a high standard of personal hygiene, emphasizing hand washing, hair care and clothing.

Lesson 9

In this lesson, you will learn about workplace facilities and behaviour, covering topics ranging from hand washing stations to the contamination risks associated with sneezing, coughing, scratching, etc.

Lesson 10

Lesson 10 discusses the guidelines for uniforms, disposable clothing and hair care, outlining dos and don'ts for business owners and food handlers.

Lesson 11

This lesson explains the correct ways to deal with staff illness and onsite injuries, such as seeking medical assistance, staying away from work and reporting illnesses or injuries as soon as possible.

Lesson 12

In this lesson, you will learn all about temperature zones and time control, giving you clear guidance for cooking, storing and serving different types of food safely.

Lesson 13

This lesson closely examines food thermometers and their role in ensuring that food temperatures remain within acceptable limits.

Lesson 14

Lesson 14 is all about the importance of cleaning and sanitizing when it comes to avoiding pest infestations, ensuring compliance, protecting staff and preventing food-borne illnesses among consumers.

Lesson 15

In this module’s final lesson, you will learn about cleaning and sanitizing methods and how to work with cleaning products safely.

Module 3: Working With Food Safely

This module is all about working with food safely at each stage of the food handling process. This includes maintaining food premises and equipment, pest control and waste disposal. You will also learn how to receive, check, store, and handle food safely. 

There is also a section dedicated to Food Safety Plans and Hazard Awareness and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles.

Lesson 16

In the first lesson of this module, you will learn about maintaining food premises and equipment, focusing on preventative maintenance activities such as inspection, adjustment, cleaning, lubrication, repair and replacement.

Lesson 17

Lesson 17 focuses on pest control and waste disposal, providing a better understanding of the associated risks and suggested actions for mitigating them.

Lesson 18

In this lesson, you will learn how to safely receive and check food deliveries as well as how to store food safely.

Lesson 19

In this lesson, you will learn how to work with food safely by looking at processes used for freezing, thawing, preparing, cooking, cooling and reheating food safely.

Lesson 20

In this lesson, you will learn how to hold hot and cold food safely, and we will cover various safety rules for serving displayed foods and maintaining their facilities.

Lesson 21

The final lesson of the course is designed to give you a better understanding of food safety plans and HACCP principles.


After completing all the lessons outlined above, you are required to pass a final exam designed to verify your knowledge. 

You must pass this exam within your 30-day course access period to achieve certification. You have unlimited attempts to score at least 70 percent, answering 50 multiple-choice questions within the 60-minute time limit.

By law, the test requires proctoring. A Proctor is a person who observes you via a webcam as you complete the exam. Proctors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, enabling you to participate at any time.


The CIFS Food Handler Certification is recognized in every province and territory across Canada, allowing you to work in different regions without recertifying.

The entire course is designed to be as efficient as possible so that you can quickly fulfill your food safety training obligations.

Enrolment is open to anyone and can be completed online or over the phone. Once enrolled, you will receive 24/7 access to the course for up to 30 days, allowing you to begin learning immediately or at a time and place that suits you. 

The course takes just a few hours to complete, including the 1-hour exam. After finishing the exam, you can request your Food Handler Certificate immediately. Most students receive their certification documents within 60 minutes.

Take the Next Step to Become a Certified Food Handler

The CIFS Food Handler Certification Course meets the requirements of food safety legislation and is recognized all over Canada. After participating in the course, you will be equipped with the skills to understand food safety hazards, how they arise and how to prevent them from impacting consumer health.

Begin your certification journey by enrolling today, or get in touch with our team to discover all the benefits this course has to offer.