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New food safety rules cause childcare centres headaches

26 November, 2016

New food safety rules cause childcare centres to either cease providing food or increase parent fees

New government food safety rules have made childcare services less safe, and are causing them to either cease providing food, or increase parent fees.

Early Childhood Council CEO Peter Reynolds said today (26 October) that childcare services were feeling ‘deceived’ about the Food Safety Law Reform Act.

‘Before the Bill became law Ministry for Primary Industries officials told us inspection services would cost round $300 a time. But this isn’t happening. According to feedback from childcare services, centres are instead being quoted $1000 to $1500, with one quoted $4000.’

Mr Reynolds said it seemed as if the local bodies and private sector providers undertaking verification services were exploiting the fact childcare centres were compelled to comply with the new rules, and were treating the situation ‘like a lolly scramble’.

Many centres had had enough, and were opting out of providing food all together, he said. And centres not opting out of providing food were putting up parent fees to cover the higher costs.

Mr Reynolds said the new rules had not made early childhood education centres safer, and had, in practice, made them less safe. This was because most food poisoning and almost all ‘allergenic incidences’ in childcare care centres came from food prepared at home.

The new rules were designed for manufacturers and restaurants, Mr Reynolds said, and were ‘a nonsense’ in childcare centres.

‘For example, centres that cook and serve food and charge a parent fee are subject to expensive compliance rules and inspections. But centres that cook and serve identical food, but don’t charge a parent fee, are not.

‘This means two centres, providing the same service, are treated completely differently by the new law depending on whether or not they charge parents a fee for the food.’

There was also, said Mr Reynolds, ‘an incomprehensibly lower expectation of food safety in home-based early childhood education than in centre-based’.

Home-based services were exempt from the new rules because the rules regard home-based childcare as a ‘domestic’ rather than a ‘commercial’ undertaking.

‘This means the Act regards New Zealand’s largest home-based provider (PORSE), owned by a company that is listed on the share market, as a ‘domestic’ undertaking, while a small two-teacher community childcare centre is defined as a ‘commercial’ undertaking.

Mr Reynolds said the new law was only just implemented, but was already ‘in need of review’.

The Early Childhood Council is New Zealand’s leading representative body for childcare centre owners, committees and management. It has a membership of more than 1100 centres that care for tens of thousands of children.


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