Childminding can be one of the most rewarding careers for those that love to work with children, but it’s not all fun and games. There are many things that you need to think about in order to keep those in your care safe. One such consideration is of course food. Children can be particularly susceptible to foodborne illnesses for a number of reasons, most important of which is that they generally have a weaker immune system, which means that they’re more likely to get ill, and if they do it can be more severe. In this article, we’re going to take a look at what childminders need to know when it comes to food hygiene.
It’s important to note that good hygiene is very important however the food is served. Many childminders won’t actually make food themselves, but if you’re reheating, cutting up, or plating food that the children have brought from home, then it’s still very important to understand food hygiene.
Food hygiene law in the UK is fairly flexible, and is very much focussed on making sure that businesses are doing the right thing in practice. There are few hard and fast rules – you must simply be preparing and serving food safely to the children in your care. There are many things that contribute to this that we’ll cover shortly, but ultimately, it’s up to your local authority as to whether you’re doing a good job. Just as with any other business that prepares or serves food, health inspectors can and will make spot checks of the premises and your processes to make sure that they are up to standard.
In order to know what these standards are, the law suggests that anyone working with food as part of their job has appropriate training for what they do. There isn’t a set requirement here – training could be formal or informal, but most business owners will take at least the Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate. This gives a very good overview of what is expected of any food handler. Level 3 is also an option, but unlikely to be necessary for a childminder. Level 1 however may be too basic.Virtual College is pleased to be able to offer the major food hygiene courses. Click here to see the courses available. Click here to see the range.
If you’re in any doubt as to what the law requires of you as a childminder, then your first port of call should be your local authority, as rules can vary from region to region. Both normal health and safety inspectors, and those concerned with safeguarding, may have an input.
Allergies can be quite common in children, and they range from being minor inconveniences to life threatening conditions. As a result, it’s hugely important that childminders are aware of and cater to any special requirements that children have. The law does require that childminders know what they are serving and what special requirements any child in their care has. Information should also be readily available to the child’s parents so that they can assess the suitability of the food.
There are lots of things to think about when it comes to food hygiene, but perhaps the easiest way to understand the broad topic is through the 4 C’s. They are Cross-contamination, Cleaning, Chilling and Cooking. We’re going to take a quick look at the important points for each of these, but do note that there is no substitute for formal training.
Cross-contamination is all about preventing bacteria and other problem microorganisms, as well as certain food items, from unintentionally coming into contact with one another. This is something that will be important at all stages of the food preparation process. Preventing cross contaminations means preventing things like raw and uncooked food from coming into contact, and preventing potential allergens from coming into contact with other foods. This is generally achieved through excellent cleaning, storage, and handwashing practices.
This one is fairly self explanatory. The cleaner your kitchen is, the safer it’s going to be for children eating food prepared in it. Make sure that you’re thoroughly cleaning everything from appliances to worksurfaces to crockery. This will significantly reduce the chances of foodborne illnesses becoming a problem.
Chilling food reduces the chance and speed at which bacteria can reproduce, so it keeps many types of food safe to eat for a longer time than if it were left at room temperature. Always know what should and should not be kept in the fridge, and how long it can be kept there. As a childminder and the owner of a business that serves food, you should be extra strict, which means checking to make sure that your refrigerator is below five degrees Celsius at all times.
Finally, cooking is not something that all childminders will need to worry about, but it’s important to recognise the safety aspect nonetheless. Raw food must be cooked appropriately to ensure that bacteria has been killed and that it’s safe to eat. 70 degrees Celsius is generally recognized as a safe temperature for most items. Baby food especially must be heated thoroughly throughout.