Four Ways to Improve Online Food Manager Certification
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Four Ways to Improve Online Food Manager Certification

Four Ways to Improve Online Food Manager Certification

April 17, 2024

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Maintaining food safety at restaurants, processing plants, grocery stores and other food handling environments is a complex, multi-layered challenge. On the ground, you have the workers who handle the food directly — cooks, stockers, processors, etc. Above them are the managers who set policies, define processes and own the day-to-day culture of operations in the organization. Obviously, different jobs require different skill sets, and different training programs. 

Background: Food Handler vs. Food Manager Certification

In the US, state-level agencies determine the specific training requirements for food handlers. Most follow standards defined by the American National Accreditation Board’s (ANAB) Conference for Food Protection Standards, which in turn is based on American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines. 

Food safety manager certification is a requirement for managers and team leads in food handling organizations — ie, the people in charge of the people with food handler certification. As a result, a higher level of training is required, with a deeper understanding of things like foodborne illness prevention, HACCP principles, sanitation practices and regulatory requirements.

Why Is Food Manager Certification Important?

In 2020, Chipotle incurred a $25 million fine because it “failed to ensure that its employees both understood and complied with its food safety protocols.” The fine was a result of a series of foodborne illness outbreaks between 2015-2018 that affected more than 1,100 people. According to Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt, “this case highlights why it is important for restaurants and members of the food services industry to ensure that managers and employees consistently follow food safety policies.” 

Training is the first line of defense in preventing both foodborne illness and the potential fines associated with it. This starts with the food handler, works its way up through management, and ultimately rests with a company’s executive leadership.

Building integrity into the system from the ground up should be a key priority with any sort of training. In our experience, training organizations tend to face four major technological challenges with this.

Verification and Proctoring

For training to be effective, organizations need to be certain the person taking the test is who they say they are, and that they are following the rules. ANAB/ANSI standards require that food manager certification exams are proctored, and that test takers have verified their identity prior to starting. 

Many proctoring services claim to check participant IDs, but rarely is this check held to the same standards as, say, a restaurant serving alcohol. In many cases, the ID can be anything — a library card, a gym card, etc. There is no scrutiny and as a result, the system is ripe for abuse. This compromises the integrity of the certification and puts training providers at risk for non-compliance with ANAB/ANSI expectations. 


As we mentioned, food safety manager certification exams must be proctored: for the training to meet ANSI/ANAB standards, participants must be monitored to make sure they’re not using study aids or doing anything else that could compromise the testing process.

One major challenge here is scheduling. Food service workers often work long, unpredictable hours. Unless training is available on demand, it can be very difficult for test-takers to find the time to complete the certification. And when they can, they are at the mercy of the proctoring system —  we’ve heard of test-takers facing wait times of 45 minutes or longer before they can begin.

Participant Security and Provider Liability

Most proctoring services use a combination of installed software/browser plug-ins/extensions to monitor exam participation remotely. However, this can involve bypassing standard security restrictions, changing system settings or disabling antivirus software. Worst of all, participants typically receive no follow-up support — no instructions for re-activating these important security features, no help uninstalling the invasive proctoring software. 

For the certifying organization, beyond the potential liability issues this introduces, there is a practical risk, too. Installing software, changing security settings, downloading a browser extension — all these things can create excessive support challenges. In our experience, requiring online proctoring software installation increases participant support requests by up to 90%. 


Tech issues in online certification proctoring are, ultimately, part of a broader conversation about equity. Food service and related industries are very diverse places. When it comes to management training, one employee shouldn’t have an unfair advantage simply because the testing system privileges some abilities over others. 

Consider technology. Online proctoring systems may require specific devices, operating systems, browser settings, etc. The additional hurdle of getting access to a device that meets these requirements, and configuring it appropriately, can create disadvantages for some participants. 

And when it comes to equity, you naturally have to talk about AI. Many proctoring services use AI broadly and without additional oversight; as a result, there is little room for context, nuance or accommodation in the testing process. Individuals who don’t strictly fit an AI’s training model — for example, someone with a disability that affects their eye movement — could be subject to additional scrutiny or flagged for a violation they didn’t commit.

The Importance of the Right Tech

Solving for the above challenges starts at the design and implementation stages. Unless your online food manager safety training program is built on a foundation of great tech, the experience will suffer in one of two ways: either your learners will struggle with accessibility issues (and you’ll deal with the attendant support requirements), or you’ll have to negotiate the risk of using inadequate verification tools. 

That’s exactly why we built Integrity Advocate. Unlike other online proctoring systems, which were designed for higher education, our ID verification and participation monitoring tools are built specifically for assessments in high-risk industries. We’ve prioritized a seamless, installation-free user experience to ensure anyone can access proctored training, at any time, from any device — with minimal hassles and a focus on participant privacy.

Read our case study with Smart Serve Ontario for a real-world look at how we’re making food and alcohol service training easier and safer for thousands of people every month: