Guidelines, not food police, the right approach

20 January 2021

The Early Childhood Council welcome the new guidelines for child food safety, provided room remains for ECE centre discretion.

“We deeply sympathise with everyone involved in the incident that prompted the review, and agree children’s safety is paramount. Centres manage a range of abilities around food safety every day, and we believe guidelines are the right approach, not blanket rules,” said ECC CEO Peter Reynolds.

“Providers are happy to play their part by promoting the guidelines with parents to help them pack safe lunches, but we can’t be the food police. Checking every child’s lunchbox puts centres in awkward positions that risk relationships with responsible parents.”

“There must be some discretion,” said Mr Reynolds.

If the Ministry of Education insists centres inspect every lunch box from home, it adds time and cost that will likely be passed on to parents. And if centres were to replace parent-provided food, they may be required to register under the Food Act as a food supplier and be subject to regular MPI verification inspections.

“We have to weigh the cost of this bureaucracy against the risk. Again, we have the deepest sympathy for the family of the child injured as a result of a choking incident, but our response must be real and pragmatic,” said Mr Reynolds.

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