Who Needs Food Handling Training in Schools and Childcare Settings?

Who Needs Food Handling Training in Schools and Childcare Settings?

Schools and childcare providers are entrusted with looking after our most vulnerable and precious people. It goes without saying that keeping children safe is of paramount importance.

This is why Food Safety and Hygiene practices in schools and childcare settings must be completely in line with the latest health and safety guidelines.

Schools and childcare providers are subject to FSA regulations and inspections as if they were a food business. Also, when childminders, nurseries and schools register with Ofsted they are automatically registered with the LA as Food Businesses. This means that Environmental Health Officers can visit all childcare premises to ensure food safety procedures are in place. And that they can take action when things are not up to scratch.

What does the FSA say about Food Safety for kids?

THE FSA states:

“You must comply with Food Safety and Hygiene regulations if you provide food and drink for children or babies including meals, snacks and drinks (apart from mains tap water).”

When working with children, the potential consequences of a food safety error are huge.

Of course, anyone can be harmed by food that is tainted by parasites, toxins, viruses or bacteria. But children are more prone to serious gastrointestinal infections than adults, and children under the age of five are the most vulnerable because of their immature immune systems.

Aside from the infection risk, children are also much more prone to allergies than adults. An estimated 5% to 8% of all children have a food allergy, compared to 1% or 2% of adults (source UK Government). This means that at least four times as many children as adults are facing potentially serious allergic reactions every day, so it’s a huge responsibility for schools and childcare organisations to avoid cross-contamination or other modes of allergen exposure.

There’s the additional complication that children are also considered a vulnerable group who cannot be reasonably expected to ask what allergens are in their food. This means that the entire responsibility for ensuring no child with a known allergy is put in danger lies with school and nursery staff.

For all these important reasons, Food Safety training is a statutory requirement for members of staff involved in handling and preparing food in childcare settings and schools.

Who needs to be trained?

Everyone who is involved in the preparation, storage or serving of food to children. This includes:

  • Childminders
  • Nursery workers
  • Kitchen staff and food servers
  • Teachers
  • Support staff like teaching assistants and lunchtime supervisors

What level of training is required?

The law states that food handlers need “appropriate training”. The form that this takes can vary. Training should also be updated at least every three years, though this is not a statutory requirement.

The important thing is that schools and childcare providers must be able to demonstrate due diligence to the FSA. Due diligence refers to the school’s ability to prove that every possible measure has been put in place and followed to ensure a high food hygiene standard.

What other food considerations are there for schools and nurseries?

Schools and nurseries are inspected and held to specific standards by Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills). Ofsted has its own food standards requirements for children in Early Years settings (up to and including the Reception year of primary school.)

This requires that where food and drink are provided, options must be Healthy, balanced and nutritious. Ofsted stipulates that there must be a suitable area for preparing healthy meals, that complies with safety and hygiene standards as set out by the FSA.

Ofsted also makes it mandatory for staff who are handling food to undergo relevant training and be able to provide evidence of it.  Ofsted also mandates that records are kept of any food allergies or incidents.

Ofsted must also be notified of any incidences of food poisoning that affect two or more children. These reports must happen as soon as possible, and absolutely no later than two weeks after the incident occurred. It is considered an offence to fail to make such a report within this timeframe.

Once notified, Ofsted may launch an investigation into Food Safety and Hygiene practices at the setting and decide whether any further action needs to be taken.

The Department for Education also set out guidance for school food standards, providing this handy checklist to headteachers. The DfE encourage schools to consider encouraging lifelong healthy eating as the school’s responsibility as much as teaching academic subjects.

Schools and nurseries have the highest possible duty of care

We all know the high level of trust that parents and carers of children must-have in the people who are caring for them. This means that schools and childcare settings have the highest duty of care to ensure best practice is always followed to prevent any Food Safety and Hygiene errors that might affect the health of children.

Discover our range of food safety and hygiene training opportunities that include various food safety training options, allergen awareness courses and the Level 2 Award in Healthy Food and Special Diets