Food business operators are to ensure that food handlers are supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters commensurate with their work activity. (Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the hygiene of foodstuffs, Annex II, chapter 12, paragraph 1) The operator's obligation to ensure is continuous.
This concerns all who work on food premises regardless of which foodstuffs are handled, and how. Also those who work on the food premises but are not directly handling foodstuffs, such as service and cleaning staff, have to be aware of and be able to consider the effects of their work methods and procedures on the foodstuffs that are being handled on the food premises.
An employee can take a Hygiene Passport test, even if he or she is not required to do so according to the Food Act. The employee can take the Hygiene Passport test again if he or she wants to refresh his or hers hygiene proficiency.
When must the operator require the employee to have a Hygiene Passport?
A food business operator must ensure that the employee has a Hygiene Passport if the employee handles unpackaged perishable food on the food premises. The Hygiene Passport must be required when the employee has been working for the employer for three months. This three-month period also includes similar work carried out by the employee previously; in other words, the period of three months does not start running again at the beginning of every new employment relationship. (Section 19 of the Food Act 297/2021)
How does the operator ensure that the employee has a Hygiene Passport?
- All employees required to have a Hygiene Passport must present one of the two original parts of the Hygiene Passport to the operator. The operator must also ensure that the Hygiene Passport actually belongs to the person who presents it. No other person or entity may for example, inform or prove the matter directly to the operator and on behalf of the employee.
- Both parts of the Hygiene Passport are of equal value, and the employee can present either the Hygiene Passport card or the paper certificate to the employer.
- Photocopies of the Hygiene Passport are not acceptable as proof of hygiene proficiency.
- The number series in the Hygiene Passport is not acceptable as proof of hygiene proficiency.
- A food sector qualification certificate is not acceptable as proof of hygiene proficiency.
- A so-called temporary certificate issued by a Hygiene Passport Examiner is not acceptable as proof of hygiene proficiency.
These records may consist of:
- copies of Hygiene Passports presented to the employer
- a list of the persons who are required to hold a Hygiene Passport and who have presented their original Hygiene Passports to the operator
- on food premises with a small number of employees, a procedure where the employees present their original Hygiene Passports to the control authority may be acceptable.
The records may be kept on paper, electronically or with both methods. The operator must be able to present the records to the control authority.
What is the operator's obligation to keep records based on?
A food business operator must keep records of the food hygiene proficiency of the persons working on the food premises and, upon request, present the information to the control authority. (section 19, subsection 3 of the Food Act 297/2021)
- The Hygiene Passport belongs to the holder to whom it was issued.
- A Hygiene Passport holder should make sure that they receive both parts of the original Hygiene Passport (card and paper certificate).
- A Hygiene Passport is issued with the candidate’s name and date of birth, and it is always the employee's personal property, regardless of who paid the fee for the Hygiene Passport test or Hygiene Passport.
- On request, the Hygiene Passport Examiner can issue a so-called temporary certificate to a person who has passed the Hygiene Passport test if necessary. This is a freely worded certificate drawn up by the Examiner in which the Examiner confirms that the person in question has taken part in and passed a Hygiene Passport test organised by the Examiner.
- A temporary certificate is not an authentic Hygiene Passport based on the Finnish Food Authority's model, and it is not a substitute for an actual Hygiene Passport.
- A temporary certificate provided by the Examiner is not acceptable as proof of hygiene proficiency. The employee must always present an original Hygiene Passport based on the Finnish Food Authority’s model to the operator or employer.
- A person who has passed the test may, for example, request a temporary certificate for a job interview or a new job where they need proof of having passed the Hygiene Passport test. In these situations, the Hygiene Passport issued by the Examiner has not yet reached the candidate.
- The temporary certificate is only valid until the person receives the actual Hygiene Passport, not until further notice. This usually takes no more than one month counting from the date of the test.
Hygiene Passports obtained abroad are not valid in Finland.
For information about the validity period of a Hygiene Passport, click here.
The Finnish Food Authority has compiled a table showing what is regarded as handling unpackaged, easily perishable foodstuffs and who is required to have a Hygiene Passport. The table contains practical examples to illustrate this question. Click here to see the table.
A Hygiene Passport can be issued by a Hygiene Passport Examiner approved by the Finnish Food Authority. Click here for a list of Hygiene Passport Examiners.
Food premises are supervised by the food safety authority based on Oiva, a disclosure system of food control findings. One of the issues assessed in the Oiva system is verification of staff members’ hygiene proficiency.
The control authority's duty is to assess compliance with the following requirements:
The food business operator has
- ensured that each employee handling unpackaged perishable foods has a Hygiene Passport based on the Finnish Food Authority's model AND
- kept records of their employees' hygiene proficiency.
On a control visit, the control authority may ask the employee to present their Hygiene Passport and proof of identity. The control authority has the right to ensure that the Hygiene Passport belongs to the employee in question.
For more information contact the Finnish Food Authority’s customer service on Hygiene Passports:
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