When it comes to pre-school children it is important to remember that a food safety incident could be far more serious than for an adult. Their maturing bodies are really not yet ready to deal with a nasty dose of something unpleasant like salmonella, so extra care is needed and of course allergy awareness is vital.
Let’s face it: children tend to be naturally a little unhygienic. Dropped food will go right back into their mouths and their fingers tend to be grubby a lot of the time. We do our best to control our children’s exposure to potential hazards, but they do seem to insist on looking for opportunities to make themselves ill.
While there is not really much we can do to stop the little ones being unhygienic in other ways, we can at least make sure that the food we serve to them and the environment we prepare it in is as safe and hygienic as we can make it. Bacterial and allergen-related issues can be mostly avoided and there is a legal requirement to ensure that any food served is hygienically prepared.
According to the Food Standards Agency, all workers classed as food handlers must be “instructed and trained in food hygiene”. This can take any appropriate form, but for most Nannies, Childminders, Nurseries, Kindergartens, and similar Early Years providers, it means some type of formal training for at least some of the staff is expected. What that usually means is either face-to-face training, which can be expensive and requires time away from work, or more commonly, online training.
Remember you will need to be trained in any circumstances where food is handled. That will or could include such activities as making food with the children, preparing snacks for them, managing their lunches, and so forth. If you are someone who prepares or serves food, or handles open food regardless of how or why, then you are probably considered a food handler and you should be trained in food hygiene.
With most safety objectives, the goal is to reduce risk to an acceptable level. Should you have an incident, one of the questions that is likely to be asked is, “Was the food handled by someone with current knowledge?” If the answer to this is not positive then you could find yourself in danger of prosecution, fines, and even imprisonment. So, not only does it make sense to be trained because you don’t want to make your charges sick, it also makes sense from a legal responsibility point of view. While there is no strict definition of what ‘current’ means, we suggest every 2 to 3 years to ensure you are up to date with current thinking and legislation.
On the Right Level
Level 2 food hygiene training is usually enough to both satisfy the needs of the Inspector and to give you the grounding you need in food hygiene – but do you really need it?
Well, in our experience, people who take the training are often surprised about the things they did not know or had forgotten. We tend to mix up old wives’ tales such as the 5 Second Rule (no, sorry, but that isn’t true – sadly, bacteria don’t actually count to five before leaping on the food) and the actual science behind hygienic approaches to food handling.
Another good example is the distressing tendency to give kids unwashed food because it is natural. It may well be natural, but so is the E.coli that can be hiding in the dirt on the surface.
As you will find when you do your training, hopefully you will probably already be aware of much of the information and will already be taking sensible precautions. We hope this is the case, and of course, it is reassuring when the training confirms your actions are correct. That said, a reminder never does any harm. Most importantly, though, our training puts the learning specifically in the context of Early Years provision to make it really relevant to your situation.
The bottom line, then, is that if you serve food, you are legally obliged to make sure that it is safely prepared, hygienically stored, served correctly, and as safe as possible for the children to eat.