Friday, 12 December 2014

Childminders and food allergy legislation

The EU food regulations are changing from 13th December 2014 and all early years providers who provide food for children (including snacks, food used in crafts and meals) must comply - including childminders. The Food Standards Agency have provided advice about the changes for childminders here.

14 common allergens have been recognised and we must record what food we give children each day so that we can inform parents what their child has eaten if they ask us for the information.

How are you complying with the changes?

At Knutsford Childminding we are using the ‘scribble what children have eaten down each day’ method of recording what food has been provided for children. We are busy and this is one more layer of paperwork we don’t need… but the ‘scribble it down’ method has been in place for a few weeks and we have found it to be successful.

We have also provided parents with information about the new legislation in our newsletters and our chef has taken a training course (details to follow) and displayed the certificate.

We have taken the opportunity to chat to parents about the new regulations and ask them to re-confirm whether their children have any diagnosed allergies … but of course it’s not always the child with known allergies who reacts to food, so we are happy to comply with the new EU regulations.

The change in regulations has led to some childminders to decide that they do not want to provide food any more and from January they will be asking parents to send in packed lunches. Here is some advice for childminders who ask parents to bring in food for their children to eat…

Healthy eating

If the food parents put in their child’s lunch box is not considered healthy it is possible that you will be downgraded and / or actioned by Ofsted at inspection. We have information from a group member that on the day she was being inspected a child had a biscuit in their lunch box – our member’s action is that she must work more closely with parents to ensure children eat healthily.

So, if parents bring food you will need to have a conversation with them about the contents of their child's lunch box - getting the right balance between carbs, fruit and veg, protein, dairy, fat and sugar. It might be a good idea to make a healthy lunch box leaflet to share with parents with ideas for ensuring children are offered a variety of different foods through the week – you will be able to show your inspector that you have given parents healthy eating information.

If you do this you might also include information that early years children (up to the age of 4) should not be given low fat foods and need a little sugar and fat in their diets. There is a useful booklet from the Caroline Walker Trust to refer to when putting together your leaflet – and you might also share it with parents.

Some childminders have a healthy eating policy in writing to give to parents. It is not a requirement of the EYFS to have a written healthy eating policy – the requirement is to be able to explain your healthy eating policy to parents and an inspector. However, if you do have a written policy, you can add information to that about healthy lunch box contents and what you will do if the child arrives with an inappropriate balance of food in their lunch box.


Ofsted are looking for children being independent during meal times – opening their own yoghurts, setting the table, preparing their own food as part of their daily routine, finding their own plates, pouring drinks, serving their friends, helping to clear the table etc.

You might need to consider how to make sure you promote independence for children who bring packed lunches in the same way as you would for children if you were all making lunch in the kitchen together because their food is already prepared so they can’t help with that part of the routine.

Some problems you might encounter...

You need to think about what you will do if –
• Parents forget to bring lunch;
• Parents do not provide enough food or the child says s/he is still hungry after eating;
• Parents provide too much food for their child;
• The child wants what another child is eating;
• The child does not eat the food parents have provided.

Will you give children extra food – and if so, will you charge parents for the food? If you decide to charge extra you will need to publish your lunch cost somewhere and check parents are happy with the extra charge – and you will need to make sure you have appropriate food in the house for the child to eat. How much will you charge? When will you ask parents for the money? What if they refuse to pay, saying they can’t afford it or they have provided a lunch and you shouldn’t have given their child extra?

What if children bring unsuitable food and drink – a can of coke and a bag of salty crisps? Will you put it back in the lunch box or let them eat it – what will you say to parents – how will you deal with the inevitable tantrum if you don’t let children eat what they have brought? Will you offer the child healthy alternatives if they don’t have enough food in their lunch box without the food you are refusing to let them eat – what will you do if the alternatives you offer are not eaten and the food goes into the bin … and the child is hungry later?

How will you tackle it if parents are sending too much food for their child’s dietary needs and their child is overeating? We have a duty of care to ensure children are fed appropriately through the day and not over-fed – especially with the rise in infant obesity. The Infant and Toddler Forum contains useful information which you can share with parents about portion sizes.

Childminders who ask parents to send in packed lunches report there is often food jealousy between the children with one child asking for something another child has got because they feel they are missing out. Think about how you will manage this to minimise issues.

Storing packed lunches

To comply with food hygiene legislation you need to ensure lunch boxes are stored appropriately in a fridge which is temperature checked to between 0 – 5 degrees each day. Safer Food Better Business for Childminders (which every childminder should be using) does not say that childminders have to write down the fridge temperature unless there is a problem – in which case you will need to record the problem and what you did to resolve it in your Safer Food Better Business file. There is a print friendly version of Safer Food Better Business for childminders here.

Do you have enough room in your fridge for lunch boxes? What about on a Monday morning when you have your family shopping in there from the weekend? You will also need to ensure lunch boxes are kept separately from raw food and unwashed vegetables – preferably on their own shelf. Are lunch boxes sent by parents clean? What will you do if a child regularly arrives with a dirty, smelly lunch box or if it is not cleaned out properly each day? How will you tackle it with parents?

Allergen legislation

Regardless of whether parents supply food or you make it for children, you need to know what each child eats through the day to ensure you comply with the new EU food legislation.

Will you have a ‘no peanuts’ policy? What if a child in your provision is allergic to nuts – how will you manage the situation if another parent repeatedly sends nuts for their child to eat? You might find it useful to think about where children sit for lunch if they are eating a packed lunch which contains food that other children round the table are not allowed to eat.

If children drop food on the floor you will need to pick it up immediately to ensure other children to not eat it to keep children safe. If a child mistakenly eats food that contains any of the 14 allergens you will need to record it and share the information with parents.

You might find this food allergy training (with certificate at the end) useful.


If you take children on outings you need to think about how you will safely transport the lunch boxes while keeping contents cold. If you buy food for children on outings (any food) you will be required, from 13th Dec 2014, to know the contents so you can share the information with parents on request. Most childminders are using their mobile phones to take photos of labels so they can be downloaded later and put into a file in case they are asked about the food the child has eaten at a later date.

Similarly, if you visit friends houses or go to groups and eat food there, you will need to write down what the child has eaten, including allergen information, so you can share the information with parents on request. You could, of course, take your own snacks / meals with you.

You will find more links and information about the allergy legislation changes here in free downloads on the Childminding Forum.

I have updated e-book 21 ‘Healthy Eating’ from Knutsford Childminding to include information and advice about food allergies – please contact me if you have an old copy and would like me to send you a free update.

If you have any questions about the new food allergy requirements or about healthy lunch boxes, please ask.