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How to safely serve high risk foods within childcare centres

How to safely serve high risk foods within childcare centres

No one wants food poisoning

Our immune systems are weaker during the early childhood years. It is important to ensure the food we’re serving to these little ones is safe for their tiny tummies. We can control the growth of bacteria by controlling the conditions they need in order to survive and grow to dangerous levels. These conditions are, time, temperature, food (to grow on), moisture, oxygen and pH (level of Acidity).

Food can become unsafe for human consumption if harmful bacteria multiply on the food. When high-risk food is stored at the incorrect temperature for too long, bacteria can increase to dangerous levels, these bacteria can then produce toxins that cause food poisoning.

Cross-contamination from high-risk foods, raw food or unhygienic handling can also cause food poisoning.

Dangerous substances can contaminate food this can be caused by chemicals (such as cleaning agents, detergents and pesticides) and other things that should not be in food (such as dirt, hair, glass or stones).

The risk of food becoming unsafe in your business will depend on the types of food you serve and how you and others in the business store, prepare and handle food.

What are ‘high risk’ foods?

High Risk Foods can be:

Meat, Seafood, Poultry, Eggs and Dairy products. Or foods that contain these items for example, sandwiches, quiches and prepared salads. Some foods become high risk after they are cooked, such as: noodles, rice, pasta.

The bacteria grows because the food is undercooked, poorly reheated or not refrigerated properly. Bacteria can also grow when the food is prepared with dirty hands or dirty equipment.

Young children are likely to suffer more severe symptoms or consequences if they get food poisoning. Their stomachs produce less acid which makes it easier for harmful germs to get through the digestive system and invade their bodies.

Symptoms range from mild dehydration to neuromuscular dysfunction or even death. Young children can also take longer to recover from food poisoning compared to adults.

There are some foods that pose a higher risk than others. Particularly of passing on a Listeria infection which is very dangerous for young children. Listeria can be treated with antibiotics, but prevention is best.

Cooking high risk foods within childcare centers

We need to be more careful when catering for the little ones!

High Risk foods


Safer Alternative


Cold Meats

​Roast beef, ham etc

Home cooked meats

​Store in fridge & use within a day of cooking

​Cold cooked chicken

​Purchased as sliced or shredded cold chicken

​Home cooked chicken or Hot take-away chicken

​Ensure chicken is cooked thoroughly to 75°C, use immediately – store any leftovers in fridge and use within a day of cooking or purchase if purchased hot.

Chilled seafood

​Raw or smoked ready-to-eat seafood

Freshly cooked seafood

​Use immediately – store any leftovers in fridge and use within a day of cooking


Soft, semi-soft and surface ripened cheeses eg ricotta

​Hard cheese eg cheddar, tasty

​Store in fridge

Ice cream

​Soft serve

​Packaged frozen ice cream

​Maintain the ice cream frozen

​Other dairy products

Unpasteurised dairy products eg raw milk, raw milk cheeses or yoghurt made Pre-packaged

Pasteurised dairy products eg custard, pasteurised milk yoghurt, dairy dessert

​Store in fridge, use by ‘use by’ date

12 Food Preparation tips for childcare centers

Bacteria can also grow when the food is prepared with dirty hands or equipment.

Follow these simple food hygiene tips to reduce the risk of foodborne disease.

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands before preparing food

  2. Thoroughly wash and dry raw fruit and vegetables before serving

  3. Keep your refrigerator clean and operate it at or below 5°C (We can help with this!)

  4. Wash knives, cutting boards and kitchen appliances and dry thoroughly after handling raw food to prevent contamination of cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

  5. Keep hot food hot (60°C or hotter)

  6. Keep cold food cold (5°C or colder)

  7. Thoroughly reheat food until it is at least 75°C

  8. Keep refrigerated foods covered

  9. Store raw meat separately from cooked and ready-to-eat food in the refrigerator. Store it below other foods so that there is no chance it will drip onto other foods

  10. Thaw ready-to-eat frozen food in the refrigerator or microwave – don’t thaw at room temperature.

  11. Thoroughly cook all minced meat products, rolled roasts and poultry to 75 °C.

  12. Don’t leave foods to cool on the bench or stove top. Divide into small portions and put them in the refrigerator as soon as they have stopped steaming.

Don’t forget about personal hygiene

Everyone who handles food must understand and practice good personal hygiene. This will go a long way in preventing foodborne diseases.

All staff who handle food should use the following personal hygiene practices:

  • bathe or shower daily

  • keep fingernails trimmed, clean and free from nail polish

  • avoid touching nose, mouth, hair and skin during food preparation

  • prevent coughing, spitting or sneezing directly onto any food

  • tie back long hair and wear head gear (such as hats and disposable hair nets) to prevent hair getting into food

  • use disposable tissues to blow their nose and wash hands after each time

  • wear minimum jewellery (a plain wedding band is acceptable).


As Childcare centres fall under the Standard 3.3.1 Food Safety programs for Food Service to vulnerable persons code, it requires each facility to implement a documented and audited food safety program. When in doubt about how to handle high risk food, refer to your Food Safety Program.

Need to update your Food Safety Program? Or perhaps a review or create new Food Safety Program? We can help! Our food safety experts can help you stay compliant. Reach out to our team today.


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