Healthy Eating Guideline

Ensure that food is safely prepared for children to eat – from the preparation stages to consumption.

Food safety

Food safety is very important in early childhood settings – it includes managing risks of choking on food, avoiding allergic reactions and making sure all food is safe.

Food allergies

  • Most kids don’t have any problems with new foods.
  • Food allergies can be severe and threaten life.
  • Food allergies happen when the immune system reacts to a protein in food.
  • The most common food allergies in kids under 5 are: cow’s milk, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, sesame, fish and shellfish.

What happens when a child reacts to a food?

Reactions usually happen straight away and can include:
  • hives or rash on the skin
  • swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • trouble breathing, which can cause loss of consciousness,
  • injury or even death.

Allergy management

  • For children with bad food allergies make sure that parents or carers provide an allergy management plan that has been worked out with a doctor.
  • Your service should have an allergy management policy and individual management plans for children with bad food allergies.
  • Everyone working with children needs to know the early signs of a food allergy and be trained in managing allergic reactions.
  • Kids with allergies need to stay away from some foods during meals, cooking and during craft activities.
  • Meals must not include food that kids have allergies to.
  • Watch kids so they don’t have foods they are allergic to.
  • Kids should not swap or share food.
  • Early childhood services should only ban certain foods following documented medical advice. You can visit the Australasian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) website at www.allergy.org.au for information on allergy management plans.

Food intolerance

  • Food intolerance is not as bad as an allergy and takes more food to make kids sick.
  • Kids can get headaches, skin rashes and stomach upsets.
  • You may need to talk to parents or carers to develop a plan to manage a child’s food intolerance. Top of page

Keep kids safe from choking

Babies and young kids are learning how to eat. They have small airways, which can be blocked by breathing in food.
  • Kids should sit down when eating.
  • Be careful with hard foods that can break into smaller pieces.
  • Grate, cook, finely slice or mash apples, carrots, celery and other hard fruits and vegies.
  • Don’t give whole nuts, popcorn, seeds, or corn chips.
  • Don’t give tough or chewy pieces of meat.
  • If you serve sausages, they need to be skinless and cut into small pieces.
  • Feed kids when they are awake and alert.
  • Never force kids to eat.
  • Never leave baby alone with a bottle.
  • Stay with kids when they are eating.
Early childhood services should have policies to reduce the risk of choking in babies and young kids.

Keeping food safe

Babies and kids are at more risk of sickness from contaminated food because their immune systems are less developed.

Food can be contaminated by:

  • hair, pieces of metal or other things accidentally mixed in when
  • preparing food
  • chemicals from the food production process
  • cleaning materials
  • toxins in the environment
  • pests
  • bacteria.

Bacteria in food

  • Bacteria are present in most food but are not always harmful.
  • Some bacteria, called pathogens, can cause food poisoning and gastro-enteritis.
  • Different bacteria cause different sicknesses – some are more serious than others.
  • Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
  • Food poisoning is very serious in babies and kids because their immune systems are less developed and they dehydrate quickly.

Gastro-enteritis

  • The most common cause of gastro is not through food contamination but a viral sickness passed between people.
  • Good hygiene and hand washing are important to stop spreading viral gastro-enteritis.

High-risk foods

If these foods are left out of the fridge, they can spoil easily because they are moist and contain a lot of nutrients.

Bacteria can easily grow in these foods:

  • milk, meat and fish
  • meals or drinks made from milk, meat or fish
  • cooked rice
  • canned food that has been opened.Top of page

Low-risk foods

These foods are not likely to grow bacteria or be spoiled:
  • uncooked pasta and rice
  • biscuits
  • packaged foods
  • canned food as long as the can is sealed.

Serving food safely

  • Make sure all kids and adults wash their hands before preparing or eating food.
  • Use tongs and spoons to serve food.
  • Keep food in the fridge until it’s time to eat.
  • Keep food like milk or yoghurt at the back of the fridge where it is coldest.
  • If food is taken to the table and not eaten – throw it away.
  • Put any food that was prepared but not served into the fridge.
  • Make sure the food is covered.
  • Throw away any food that has been out of the fridge for more than 2 hours.
  • Kids should not share cups or utensils or eat from each other’s plates.
  • Don’t let kids eat food dropped on the floor.

Heating food

  • Make sure food is heated right through till it’s hot, and then let it cool down. This kills any bacteria that might be there.
  • Do not reheat food that has already been reheated. For example, a curry cooked the day before, put in the fridge and then reheated and served the next day must not be reheated and served again later.

Kids helping in the kitchen

  • Make sure kids always wash their hands before touching food.
  • Always watch kids in the kitchen.
  • Be careful with sharp knives and hot surfaces.
Most states and territories have separate legal requirements, in addition to regulations, that specifically relate to food safety. In some states and territories these may be handled by local government authorities. Some authorities will require childcare educators and staff to undertake formal training.