Safe Plates, Food Protection Manager Certification Course

By: Cassidy Hobbs
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
Johnston County Cooperative Extension

Every few months, I am bombarded with calls from those in the food service industry needing a “ServSafe course” as soon as possible. After a few conversations, I usually get callers pointed in the right direction, but there is always confusion when I introduce them to “Safe Plates”. Safe Plates is a Food Protection Manager Certification course offered by North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Safe Plates prepares managers for the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals Certification Exam and is approved by the American National Standards Institution (ANSI). The number one question I am asked is, “Is that the same as ServSafe?”

ServSafe and SafePlates are accredited by ANSI and meet the FDA Food Code 2013 requirement for a Certified Food Protection Manager. Safe Plates is the “Extension brand,” and is rooted in behavior-change rather than just memorizing answers and regurgitating information. Safe Plates is recognized across the United States and the certification is good for five years. Managers trained in Safe Plates are equipped to create an environment that minimizes food safety risks in their food establishments through best practices, open communication and practical, science and regulatory-based knowledge.

Who should take the Safe Plates course? Anyone who is a manager in the food service industry, person in charge, or anyone looking to further their food safety knowledge to work in the food industry is encouraged to take the course. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Agents offer Safe Plates regularly in partnership with the local health department. Here in Johnston County, I maintain close communication with John Phillip at Environmental Health. John is the Supervisor of Food and Lodging in Johnston County. I encourage my participants to communicate with Environmental Health when they have questions. Those at Environmental Health are often feared by people in the food service industry, but our Environmental Health team is here to ensure that those who frequent our food service establishments in Johnston County have safe food to eat.

Why is Safe Plates important? Each section of the Safe Plates course begins with a case study. These case studies are real situations and outbreaks of foodborne illness that have happened in recent years, many of which occurred in North Carolina. In fact, there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness each year resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 preventable deaths.

Between $51-77.7 billion (yes, BILLION) is spent on foodborne illness annually due to medical costs, productivity loss, and mortality. When outbreaks of foodborne illness occur, lives, jobs, businesses, and reputations are put on the line. Lawsuits, mortality, loss of customers are all things that food service establishments risk when food is not handled safely.

If you or someone you know needs to be certified as a Food Protection Manager, please contact the Johnston County Cooperative Extension office at 919-989-5380. You can also contact me via email at to get a direct link to registration for the next Safe Plates Course.

The course will be held October 17th and 18th from 9a-4pm, with the exam offered on October 19th at 9am. The registration fee is $125 per participant and includes the Safe Plates book, study guides, practice exams and answer keys, proctor fee, and exam. You can also register by visiting our website,, and selecting the “Safe Plates” tab. The registration deadline is September 28th by 5p. This deadline cannot be extended.