Last updated: 03.10.23

How Long Does a Food Hygiene Certificate Last?

The three levels of Food Hygiene Certificate are the most popular and most widely recognised qualifications when it comes to working with food, whether that means on the production line, in a kitchen, or even in retail. However, many people will wonder how long these certificates actually last, and whether or not they’ll need to reapply for them at regular intervals. 

The truth is that there is no set time that a certificate in food hygiene is valid. However, a number of factors will determine how often the course should be retaken, and we’re going to take a look at them in this article.

What Is a Food Hygiene Certificate?

A food hygiene certificate is awarded to anyone who successfully completes a food hygiene training course. It indicates that an individual has learned everything required for a certain level of food health and safety training, which may be a necessary requirement for certain roles in the catering or culinary industry.

Food hygiene and safety training covers everything from food law and the ways in which food should safely be handled and prepared, to the details of allergens and more. By completing this training and earning a certificate, you demonstrate that you know all the relevant information about food safety and hygiene, which should mean that you uphold the standards and procedures you have been taught.

Who Needs a Food Hygiene Certificate?

If you have a job that requires you to handle food frequently, whether you’re self-employed or employed in food catering, food retail or food manufacturing, you will be required by law to have a certain level of food hygiene training. This applies if you work in a restaurant, cafe or any other establishment where food is served, prepared or packaged for consumption.

Food handlers that only serve food are not required to have a food hygiene certificate, but it is best industry practice to do so as it shows a high standard of cleanliness. In addition to this, customers are more likely to eat or consume food from a supplier that has a food hygiene certificate.

Employers are responsible for identifying which employees need food hygiene training and providing them with this training, whether it’s in person or online. Failure to do so could result in legal consequences, so it’s always better to give everyone relevant training to make sure you’re covered and seen to be complying.

What Food Hygiene Certificate Do I Need?

If you’re new to the food hygiene certificates, understanding what they cover may help you decide how often you, your colleagues or employees may need to take them. In general, most people take either Level 1, 2 or 3 Food Hygiene and Safety courses depending on their role and the level of risk that their responsibilities involve.

A Level 2 Food Hygiene and Safety certificate satisfies a food handler’s legal obligation for food safety training in the workplace. Level 3 Food Hygiene and Safety training is required by managers and food supervisors, whereas a Level 1 Food Hygiene and Safety certificate is a good introductory course for those practising food safety at home or who work in a catering environment but don’t often handle food.

Formerly known as the Foundation or Basic Food Hygiene, the Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene for Catering course is aimed at professionals working with food, or the management of food professionals. It can be used during the induction phase, as awareness, as a refresher course or as foundation training. 

The Level 2 certificate is the middle level of the three options and is designed for most people working with food and drink who aren’t supervisors or those who are responsible for implementing policy. This course, RoSPA assured, is a self-study course and allows all catering businesses, regardless of size, to provide all of their staff with first-class training.

A Food Hygiene Level 2 certification is one that most workers will need because it gives a good understanding of food hygiene. Depending on the nature of your role, you may also need to undertake other specific training courses that relate directly to your line of work including catering, retail and manufacturing.

How to Get a Food Hygiene Certificate

Getting a food hygiene certificate is a necessary step for employees that work in catering or food production. In most cases, your employer will organise and provide the relevant training courses for you to complete when you start the role and then regularly if your training needs refreshing.

Food hygiene certificates can be attained through training within the workplace, online e-learning in your own time, or through relevant prior experience. Online training providers like Virtual College are a great option to allow employees to complete their training at a time and in a location that suits them.

Courses that allow learners to work in their own time when they are most productive and have proven to be most effective, cost-efficient and quicker. The costs of hiring a teacher and a classroom to teach employees are eradicated and can be utilised in other areas of the business.

How Much Is a Food Hygiene Certificate?

The cost of a food hygiene course certificate will depend on the type of training and the format in which this training is delivered. In-person training tends to be more expensive, whilst online training is cheaper because it can be done at any time.

At Virtual College, our food safety training courses start at £12.00 and increase in price depending on the length of the course and the amount of content it involves.

Most food hygiene courses give you a digital certificate to indicate your participation, so if you want to print this out, you’ll usually have to pay for it yourself.

How Long Does a Food Hygiene Certificate Last?

While there is no expiry date on food hygiene certificates, it is widely recognised within the industry that renewal should take place every three years. Some employers, however, may require their staff to renew their certifications every year as part of their ongoing workplace training.

Food employers have the freedom to decide when they feel a refresher course is necessary for their workforce. Usually re-training occurs when there has been a change in food legislation or technical developments in food hygiene.

When you pass the course and receive your certificate it will have no expiry on it, and in theory you’d be free to use it on your CV indefinitely. However, you’d have to ask yourself if you’d feel comfortable saying that you still had all of the relevant skills and knowledge five years later. 

Would you be able to remember everything you had learnt? This is especially important given that this is a matter of health and safety - poor food hygiene can result in illnesses and can be particularly severe when it comes to allergies. It’s not worth the risk, and as a result, individuals may wish to retake the course whenever they feel as though they need a refresher, whether as part of their role or when they’re applying for new ones.

Aside from this, certain bodies will insist upon certain intervals between the course being retaken. For example, the NHS requires that anyone needing the certificate renews it every 12 months, and this may well apply to businesses contracted to deliver NHS services too. 

Similarly, local authorities may require that those working with food in schools have to take the course every year or two. As a general rule, the food and drinks industry as a whole has set the limit at about three years for retaking the certificate, and you’ll find that most organisations stick to this. It ensures that everyone is fully trained and knowledgeable, as opposed to simply ticking a box.

One of the most important points to note is that a certificate in food hygiene can be taken online in a matter of hours, which means that there’s no excuse for not retaking it when you need to. It’s a straightforward e-learning course that can be completed in chunks, either in free time or at work.

Is a Food Hygiene Certificate Required by Law?

EU Regulation 852/2004 requires food businesses to ensure any staff who handles food are supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene in a way that is appropriate for the work they do. As a business owner or supervisor, you must comply with the provisions of Regulation (EC) 852/2004 of the European Parliament on the Hygiene of Foodstuffs, the Food Safety Act 1990, and the Food Hygiene Regulations 2005.


Do you need a food hygiene certificate to serve tea and coffee?

There’s no specific requirement for people serving tea and coffee to have a certain level of food hygiene training, but it’s generally recommended that you have a certification if you’re going to be serving hot beverages to customers. Making coffee and tea still involves handling products that other people will consume, and food hygiene training will help ensure that you do this safely.

What food hygiene certificate do I need to open a cafe?

If you’re opening and running a cafe, the best level of food hygiene training for you would be the Level 3 course, which is geared towards managers and supervisors and provides an in-depth look at all the different aspects of workplace food health and safety. This isn’t a mandatory qualification for cafe owners, but will definitely be the most useful. 

What food hygiene certificate do I need to sell cakes from home?

If you decide to bake and sell cakes from home, several legal requirements ensure you’re following the necessary steps to keep your food preparation environment safe and minimise the risk of contamination. A Level 2 certificate in food hygiene and safety is the most relevant for someone running a cake business from home and will cover everything you need to know.


The majority of people that work in catering, hospitality or the culinary industry will need a food hygiene course certificate, which means that they’ll also need to know about food hygiene certificate renewal. Whilst these qualifications never officially run out, it’s important to be accountable for knowing when you need a refresher in your training to ensure that you continue to uphold the necessary food hygiene standards to keep yourself and everyone else safe.

Training providers like Virtual College offer food handlers e-learning courses that will ensure they are trained to the highest standard. If you’re looking to gain or renew a certificate in food safety, take a look at all of our food hygiene certificate options to find the right resource for you.