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The Real Reason Behind The Early Learning Centre Food Guidelines

It’s highly likely that you have recently heard the new food guidelines for early childcare centres being slammed by the media. Among the list of foods that centres can no longer provide are popcorn, dried fruit, seeds, lollies, and hard rice crackers.

Early learning centres do take the health and safety of the children in their care very seriously and that includes the planning and preparation of food, and supervision of learners while eating.

The Ministry of Health guidelines, which became compulsory earlier in the year, have been developed to minimise very real food-related choking hazards for New Zealand children.

In a daycare centre in 2016, a child choked on a raw apple. This event sadly left them wheelchair-bound and brain-damaged. We don’t want this to happen to more children, so that’s why our country has taken control with these new rules They are critical for keeping our children safe from the risk of permanent damage.

Apples have not been outlawed altogether, however. Hard foods such as carrots or apples must now be grated or cut up small, depending on the age of the child. Additional practices such as slicing grapes and cherry tomatoes and chopping up meat can also help us to reduce risk.

One of New Zealand’s largest early childhood teacher education providers is embracing the new rules around food safety in childcare centres. Nikki Parsons of Te Rito Maioha (ECNZ) says, “Any information that reduces risk and enhances the health of our youngest tamariki is extremely welcome.”

“The guidelines will provide much needed clarity for services and also guidance for whānau on the safest food options and how to minimise food-associated risks.”

Early learning centres that do not provide food are required to promote the Ministry of Health guidance to all parents.

While there has been some negative response, the effort required to prepare food according to the guidelines is extremely minimal compared with the risks that come with these foods. After all, if there is a way that we can keep our children safe, why wouldn’t we do it?

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