Regardless of whether you’re a parent or childcare provider, all you want to do is keep the little ones safe.
Parents want to know that while they’re away, their kids are happy and healthy and for this to occur, child care or catering services need to have systems that keep their food safe.
What can happen if food isn’t safe?
We all know how easily nasty bugs can spread throughout kids and potentially cause serious health problems. The National Childcare Association Council verifies how important good food safety in child care centres is to the continuing health and safety of our kids.
“If food is not safely stored or properly handled,” the NCAC writes, “bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels and cause illness. The use of safe and hygienic food storage and handling practices can prevent food contamination and the transmission of bacteria and infectious disease among children and adults. Every staff member who handles food has an important responsibility to maintain safe and hygienic food practices.”
Although you can do simple things like washing your hands before eating or cleaning benches, in childcare centres far more stringent systems are required.
What can you do to prevent illness?
The two parts to this questions are: what do you need in childcare centres for safety and how can you get it?
The truth is, the legislative requirements and acronyms (i.e., HACCP or FSANZ) associated with food safety accreditation often makes the processes seem quite complex. But, GRQ Consulting can provide timely and comprehensive advice that simplifies the process.
In Queensland, it is compulsory for child care centres or child care catering services to have a Food Safety Program as they provide food to a vulnerable population. If you’re based outside of Queensland, there is different state or territory legislation that applies (but GRQ can advise you about those, as well).
What does a Food Safety Program actually achieve?
If you’re not up to date on the Food Safety Program lingo, that’s completely understandable. The goals of the program are to reduce the risk of causing food-borne illnesses, therefore keeping kids, carers and families safe. Bacteria like Salmonella and viruses like Norovirus can and do cause food borne outbreaks in Child Care Centres.
The Food Safety program must adhere to the requirements of the FSANZ Food Standards Code, specifically Sections 3.2.2 and 3.2.3, HACCP Codex Alimentarius and the state or territory Food Act (in Qld the Qld Food Act 2006).
Not only this, but they also ensure that businesses can provide a proven track record of managing food safety and exercising due diligence.
Inside any Food Safety Program, there are a number of elements that must be fulfilled, right from the hazards of the business to the systematic control of the hazards and accurate reporting of controls.
We know those specifications could be daunting and make you want to completely forget about developing and accrediting a Food Safety Program, but having a Food Safety Program in place is a necessity if you prepare and serve food to children. Luckily, GRQ Consulting can capably guide you through the entire process.
How can GRQ help me set up the program?
We have a simple and collaborative process that can ensure a child care business with a new program to provide food to children in its care, is quickly set-up with a Food Safety Program specifically tailored to the needs of the centre. We can also support you through the accreditation process including those parts that are somewhat bureaucratic.
1. Develop and document Food Safety Program
Here, you engage us as your consultant, and we will design your program, tailored to you and your business’ needs. We will work collaboratively with you to ensure that all your food safety and business needs are covered and properly documented. Of course, because of our long term experience in designing Food Safety Programs, your Food Safety Program documentation will also meet all legislative and Council requirements.
2. Document audit of food safety program
Unfortunately, if you engage us as consultants, then we can’t audit your system (it’s an evident conflict of interest, and we would never want to ruin your chances of accreditation). An independent auditor of your choice (from the Qld Health list) will review your system, provide you with the report (Advice Notice), and ideally, you’ll have passed with flying colours.
3. Submit to Council
Next you must download and complete the required forms and submit to Council, including the Advice Notice and the fee payable to Council. GRQConsulting can guide you through this process. Your Food Safety Program should be accredited immediately, because of our extensive experience in meeting Council requirements.
4. With assistance from us, implement your Food Safety Program
After you have got the tick of approval, we will work with you to implement your program. Importantly, GRQ Consulting ensures it’s not just you who understands the procedures, but we work collaboratively with your staff to ensure they are sure of their responsibilities and the procedures they must follow. We especially ensure they understand how to monitor the system, complete monitoring records and identify non-conformances to which they must apply appropriate corrective action.
We can then supervise the implementation of your Food Safety Program, over weeks or months, and if it becomes apparent that changes need to be made, or additional training is necessary, we will act, with your permission, immediately.
5. First Compliance Audit
Your first Compliance Audit occurs within 6 months of the accreditation of your Food Safety Program. This is an important audit performed by your independent Food Safety Auditor who will audit both the Food Safety Program document and the operation of the program by your staff. The Auditor provides an Audit Report to you and to Council.
GrQConsulting can assist you to prepare for this audit, ensuring all documents are completed and ready for presentation and staff are prepared.
6. An annual audit of the program.
Again, the independent Food Safety Auditor will be engaged to ensure you’re managing your Food Safety Program correctly and provides the Audit Report to you and to Council.
7. Post-Audit Corrective Action
Sometimes the Auditor will find Major or even Critical Non-conformances if the Food Safety Program has not been managed properly or if the procedures in the Program have not been followed as documented. Corrective action must be carried out and Council may visit to ensure that this has been done correctly.
In the event of obtaining an Audit Report that you find daunting, GRQConsulting can assist and support you and your staff to plan and enact appropriate corrective action and improve the safety and quality of the food served to children in your centre.
Following these guidelines, and working with GRQ Consulting, will ensure food served in your Child Care Centre poses no risk to the health of children in your care, their families or to your staff. Children are vulnerable and precious and a well-designed, practical and thoroughly understood Food Safety Program is absolutely necessary to keep them safe.