Food safety is very important for childcare, because children are a vulnerable group. This means children can be more seriously affected by food poisoning than some other groups of people.
If you are planning to start up a childminder business that provides food as part of your childminding service, you do not need to register separately as a food business with your local authority. This will happen automatically when you register with Ofsted. This only applies for registrations made on or after 1 January 2014, and is part of the government’s commitment to reduce the burden on business.
Registering with Ofsted
If you register your childminding business with Ofsted, and you plan to provide food as part of your normal childminding service, the details you provide to Ofsted will also be used to register you as a food business. This means that your registration details held by Ofsted will be available to your local authority, and you will not have to register separately as a food business with your local authority. This allows childminders that provide food, to have their premises registered with the environmental health service of their local authority, which is a legal requirement.
After being registered as a food business you may have a food safety inspection. This would be carried out by your business’s local authority. They are responsible for food safety in your local area. If your childminder business does need an inspection, a food safety officer will contact you to arrange a suitable time to visit. The officer will talk about food hygiene and food safety to help make sure the food you give to any children is prepared, stored and handled safely.
Nurseries, care homes and schools
Single registration does not apply to childcare arrangements that run from non-domestic premises – nurseries, care homes and schools, for example. In these circumstances, Ofsted will not share registration details with the local authority.
Preparing, storing and handling food
If you are a childminder that provides food as part of your normal childminding service you are responsible under food law for ensuring that food is prepared, stored and handled in compliance with the food hygiene regulations. This includes keeping a record of actions carried out to keep food safe. The Food Standards Agency has produced a special pack called 'Safer food, better business for childminders' (SFBB for childminders). This popular pack can be found via the link towards the end of this page.
You can contact your local authority environmental health team for further advice if you are unsure of your responsibilities under food law or have concerns about providing food safely. Your local authority can also provide advice on food safety training courses within your local area. Find the contact details of your nearest local authority, via the link towards the end of this page.
Higher risk activities
If you are carrying out higher risk food activities as part of your childminder service, the FSA strongly advises you to contact your local authority for further advice about those activities. Higher risk activities might include:
- providing a large number of meals per day as part of your normal childminding service
- producing certain homemade foods such as baby food or sous-vide cooking
- producing your own meals for chilled storage and reheating
- certain storage activities – vacuum packing or making and then canning or jarring homemade chutneys, flavoured oils and other products, for example
Helpful food hygiene and safety tips
These should be kept out of food preparation areas due to the risk of cross-contamination – this can happen when harmful bacteria are spread onto food from other food surfaces, hands or equipment. You will want to show 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
These should also 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 needed, you will need to show that you have adequate controls in place to make sure food preparation areas are not contaminated and that effective cleaning and disinfection procedures are in place.
Ideally, laundry facilities should 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 do not come into direct contact with food, work surfaces or cooking utensils. Also, you should ensure that procedures are in place to adequately wash and disinfect work surfaces and cooking utensils before any food preparation takes place.
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 food, especially meat/poultry, fish, eggs and unwashed fruit and vegetables
• after using the toilet or changing nappies
• after touching the bin or laundry
• after blowing your nose
• after touching pets, phones, light switches, door handles and cash registers
Food hygiene courses
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 that food handlers have adequate knowledge to prepare and supply food that is safe to eat.
Food allergens pose a significant risk to consumers with allergic conditions, which may even be life threatening. Children are particularly vulnerable because of their reduced level of control over the foods they eat.
As a childminder, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have allergen information to provide for the food you serve and that this is accurate, consistent and verifiable. Remember to check the ingredients list of foods you use to make sure allergen information is correct, to avoid triggering an allergic reaction. The provision of allergen information concerns any foods bought from a shop and unpackaged foods including home-cooked meals. This allergen information should be easily accessible and readily available to any children in your care, or their parents.
There are 14 allergens currently listed under food law that you must declare. These are:
- cereals containing gluten, eg wheat (including spelt and khorasan), rye, barley and oats and their hybridised strains
- crustaceans, eg prawns, crab and lobster
- nuts, eg almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio, cashew, macadamia nuts or Queensland nuts
- celery (including celeriac)
- sulphur dioxide/sulphites (preservatives used in some foods and drinks) at levels above 10mg per kg or per litre
- molluscs, eg clams, mussels, whelks oysters, snails and squid
Further information on allergen legislation and FSA advice can be found via the link below.
Registered child carers can also discuss these matters and other concerns with their local authority.