Understanding ECEC food safety requirements

The NSW Food Authority shares essential information and resources for services that provide food, following updates to the Food Standards Code. 

A young female child smiles while biting on a carrot. A yellow cup water bottle and container of carrot sticks sits on a table in front of her. A young female child smiles while biting on a carrot. A yellow cup water bottle and container of carrot sticks sits on a table in front of her.
Image: The updated Food Standards Code aims to improve the skills, practices and knowledge of food handlers to support the health and wellbeing of children in ECEC settings.

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services that provide food to children will need to meet new food safety requirements from 8 December 2024.  

The requirements were introduced following changes to the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code), which sets out the laws for Australian and New Zealand food businesses.  

The changes aim to improve the skills and knowledge of food handlers. All ECEC services providing food must meet the requirements of the Code to protect children from harm.  

Who the requirements apply to  

The new requirements apply to ECEC services that serve unpackaged, potentially hazardous, ready-to-eat food – that is, food that needs temperature control to remain safe to eat.  

Examples of potentially hazardous ready-to-eat food include dairy, cut fruit and vegetables, cooked meat, eggs, seafood, rice and pasta. Foods not considered potentially hazardous include raw whole fruit and vegetables, bread, biscuits, crackers, crispbreads and plain cakes.  

The requirements do not apply to services handling food:   

  • supplied by parents   

  • served in its original packaging   

  • as part of an educational program, such as an occasional cooking activity   

  • at a fundraising event.  

What are the requirements?  

Under the Code, services must implement 2 or 3 of the following mandatory ‘tools’, based on how they handle food. 

  1. Appoint a food safety supervisor who can oversee day-to-day food handling operations for the service and give advice to employees who handle food. An existing staff member can do the food safety supervisor training with an approved registered training organisation. Certification lasts 5 years.
  2. Ensure all staff who handle food are trained in food safety. Services can choose how their staff are trained, but the training must cover safe food handling, food contamination, cleaning and sanitising, and personal hygiene. The NSW Food Authority’s free online Food Handler Basics Training is available to help services meet this obligation.  
  3. Show food is safe. Establish processes to monitor and manage key food safety risks related to temperature control, processing, and cleaning and sanitising. Visit the NSW Food Authority’s Showing food is safe page for more information and free templates that can help meet this obligation.  

All ECEC services that serve unpackaged, potentially hazardous food that is ready to eat, must implement tools 1 and 2: appoint a food safety supervisor and ensure all food handlers are trained in food safety and hygiene. This includes services that only provide snacks (if they are unpackaged and potentially hazardous), such as sliced cheese, fruit salad or yoghurt.  

Services that also process – that is, cook, chop, heat or thaw – potentially hazardous food into a food that is ready-to-eat and potentially hazardous need to implement all 3 tools. Most services that provide meals to children fit into this category.  

Enhancing children’s health and safety  

The requirements are in place because unpackaged, potentially hazardous food that is ready to eat is high risk and needs careful handling to keep it safe.    

While compliance with food safety by ECEC services has generally been good, there have been foodborne illness outbreaks in facilities in the past 10 years.  

In NSW, local councils inspect ECEC services under the Food Regulation Partnership with the Food Authority. Councils are encouraged to take an educative approach while businesses and services adjust to the new requirements.  

Visit the NSW Food Authority’s website to access further information and implementation resources, including: 

Services can also contact the NSW Food Authority helpline on 1300 552 406 or by emailing food.contact@dpi.nsw.gov.au for further guidance.  

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