Food safety is very important to childcarers, such as childminders, because children are a vulnerable group, which means they can be more seriously affected by food poisoning than adults.
Since 2006, many childminders have been covered by food hygiene regulations. These regulations say that they need to keep a record of what they do to keep food safe. The Food Standards Agency has produced a special pack called 'Safer food, better business for childminders', which enables childminders to do this with as little paperwork as possible.
Childminders covered by the regulations will also need to register as a 'food business operator' with their local authority. These regulations do not apply to all childminders – it depends whether they regularly provide snacks or meals for the children in their care. The Agency has produced some guidance for childcarers, which explains how they can tell if they are covered by the regulations or not.
If you have any questions about food safety, or whether 'Safer food, better business for childminders' is suitable for you, contact the environmental health service at your local authority for advice.
Advice for registered childcarers on domestic premises, including childminders, providing a food service to those in their care
This advice is aimed solely at registered childcarers on domestic premises, including childminders, providing a food service to those in their care. It is not intended for nannies and home childcarers or care operating from non-domestic premises such as nurseries, care homes and schools. The advice has been produced in response to questions raised over whether these childcarers should also be required to register as a food business operator.
I don't provide any food services. Am I required to register as a food business operator?
If you provide no more than the following levels of food service as part of your normal business, you should not be required to register as a food business operator.
a. Provision of mains drinking water.
b. Provision of crockery and cutlery for use by children to eat their own packed lunches.
c. Provision of chilled storage for packed lunches that belong to the children.
d. Occasional assistance to children with cutting up their own food in response to individual need rather than as an established service.
e. Occasional provision of food that is not part of the normal service (e.g. a cake to celebrate a child’s birthday or provision of food where a parent/guardian has been delayed).
f. Operating in the child's own home and serving food that belongs to the child's parent/guardian e.g. nannies or home childcarers.
If I do need to register as a food business operator, how should I do it?
To register as a food business operator you will need to inform your local authority - the authority where your 'business' is based.
Registering as a food business operator is free of charge. The process may differ slightly between local authorities, but it’s likely they will ask you to complete a simple registration form confirming your contact and address details and the nature of your business.
To can find the contact details of your nearest local authority at the link below.
What happens once I have registered as a food business operator?
Once you have registered as a food business operator with your local authority, a food safety officer will contact you to arrange a suitable time to visit. The food safety officer will carry out an initial inspection of your 'premises' and will discuss general food hygiene practices to ensure food is being prepared safely.
Will my domestic situation be taken into account?
You have a general duty, in addition to the welfare requirements set out in Ofsted’s Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage or the regulations under the Childcare Act 2006, to ensure that food you provide is safe.
However, your local authority food safety officer will take your domestic environment into consideration and will help you put in place practical and proportionate measures to ensure food safety.
Helpful hygiene tips
Pets should be kept out of food preparation areas due to the risk of cross-contamination - when harmful bacteria are spread onto food from other food surfaces, hands or equipment. You will want to demonstrate therefore that where pets can gain access to food preparation areas, procedures are in place to adequately wash and disinfect work surfaces and cooking utensils before any food handling or preparation takes place.
Baby changing facilities should be kept away from food preparation areas. Soiled nappies should not be brought into food preparation areas and should never be placed on work surfaces. If baby changing facilities are required you will need to demonstrate that you have adequate controls in place to ensure that food preparation areas are not contaminated and that effective cleaning and disinfection procedures are in place.
Laundry facilities should ideally be separate from food preparation areas but this may not be practical in many domestic environments. Where separate facilities are not available, it will be necessary to demonstrate that laundry is not carried out at the same time as food preparation and measures are in place to ensure that detergents and soiled clothing etc do not come into direct contact with work surfaces or cooking utensils. Furthermore you should ensure that procedures are in place to adequately wash and disinfect work surfaces and cooking utensils before any food preparation takes place.
Handwashing Your hands can easily spread bacteria around the kitchen and onto food. It is important to always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water at each of these times:
- before starting to prepare or handle food
- after touching raw meat including poultry
- after using the toilet or changing nappies
- after touching the bin or laundry etc.
- after touching pets
Food hygiene courses are available from various training providers. However, there is no requirement for food handlers to attend formal courses or to acquire food hygiene qualifications. It is important however, that food handlers have sufficient knowledge to prepare and supply food that is safe to eat.
Registered childcarers can also discuss these matters and other concerns with their local authority.