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Food Hygiene in Nurseries – All you need to know

Last updated on 20th December 2023

Food Hygiene in Nurseries is extremely important. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) states that “You must comply with food safety and hygiene regulations if you provide food and drink for children or babies including meals, snacks, and drinks (apart from mains tap water)”.

People of all ages can contract food poisoning from eating food or drinking water that has been tainted by parasites, toxins, viruses, or bacteria. However, children aged five and below are more susceptible to infection as their immune systems are still developing.

Younger children are also more at risk of having allergic reactions to certain foodstuffs. Therefore, your nursery needs to have a food hygiene policy that adheres to Ofsted food hygiene requirements.

The symptoms of food poisoning in young children are similar to those experienced by adults. However, due to the size of their bodies, they can become very ill, very quickly.

We’ve created this article to outline and discuss all the points you must be aware of concerning food hygiene in nurseries. In this guide, we’ll explain what food hygiene is, the penalties for non-compliance and who is responsible for implementing a food hygiene policy in a nursery environment.

We’ll also highlight the necessary food hygiene requirements for nursery staff, food hygiene guidelines, and the importance of having a food hygiene policy in place.

Young children eating their lunch in a nursery that complies with Ofsted food hygiene requirements

What is food hygiene?

Food hygiene is a term describing the processes involved in preparing, handling, and storing food and beverages in a way that reduces the risk of people contracting illnesses from food-borne viruses and infections.

The main goal of food hygiene policies in nurseries is to provide a framework that minimises and eliminates the risk of food becoming contaminated and causing illness amongst children.

Some of the critical elements of food hygiene include:

  • Cross-contamination prevention – which can be implemented by using colour-coded knives and chopping boards, cleaning surfaces thoroughly, and storing cooked and raw foods separately. These measures help to prevent chemical, physical, allergenic, and bacterial cross-contamination.
  • Personal hygiene – including wearing appropriate protective clothing, washing hands regularly, and implementing strict illness procedures across all nursery staff.
  • Cleaning procedures – all kitchen equipment should be cleaned meticulously, including kitchenware, surfaces, bins, and floors.
  • Cooking temperatures – it’s vital that all food served to young children is appropriately cooked and stored at the correct temperature. These measures help to prevent the growth and spread of harmful bacteria.
  • Allergen awareness control – all nursery staff must be aware of the 14 most common food allergens and must aim to prevent cross-contamination from such allergens at all times.
  • Safe storage of food – all food must have appropriate labelling and dating visible and should be stored in temperature-controlled environments. Any staff that serve food must be trained on what food items can and cannot be stored close to each other to prevent the occurrence of food poisoning.

We recommend that any members of nursery staff that deal with food should complete a Food Safety and Hygiene certification. This accreditation provides a comprehensive understanding of food safety best practices and is highly recognised by the FSA and other health and safety authorities.

What can happen if good food hygiene practices aren’t followed

If your nursery fails to implement a robust food hygiene policy, you could cause severe harm to the children for which you are caring. Failure to comply with food hygiene guidelines could result in up to six months of imprisonment and fines according to the Food Safety Act 1990.

Additionally, a nursery’s professional reputation can be permanently damaged by poor standards of food hygiene. Think about it, would you send your children to a nursery known for food poisoning or poor hygiene standards?

We live in the digital age, a place where social media and online reviews give everybody a voice and a publishing platform. Therefore, food safety policies in nurseries should be taken seriously. They help to protect your children while protecting the reputation of your business by minimising the risk of illness occurring.

Who is responsible for food hygiene in the nursery setting?

It’s the responsibility of the nursery manager to ensure that all members of staff receive full training around food hygiene guidelines. It’s essential that all staff both understand the policy and take steps to implement it into their everyday duties.

All members of staff must make sure that safe practices are maintained when preparing and storing food. Additionally, all food hygiene practices within your nursery must comply with relevant policy, training, and legislation.

On any given day, there must always be at least one member of staff on duty who is trained and responsible for food hygiene. This member of staff must oversee any food preparation and make sure that safe practices are maintained all of the time.

Children in nursery setting eating food prepared by food handler

What are the food hygiene requirements for nursery workers?

When caring for young children, you are fully responsible for their health and safety. This includes managing any food risks to which they may be exposed. That said, food hygiene goes way beyond food preparation. This is because storage and reheating can pose significant risks if robust food hygiene policies are not in place.

The last thing you want as a nursery worker is to harm the children that are placed in your trusted care. The consequences could be as serious as nursery closure and legal penalties. All nurseries are registered to their local authority by The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) if they are providing food to children in their care.

This means that UK food hygiene laws are applicable to your childminding business, and you may be subjected to Environmental Health Officer (EHO) inspections.

It’s paramount that you and your team have knowledge of each of the requirements listed below, ensuring that the following points are adhered to every day that you are open for businesses:

Food management system being maintained regularly

Although food safety management systems (FSMS) are not legally required in the UK, they help to ensure that best food hygiene practices are followed within your nursery. A FSMS is a systematic approach to monitoring and controlling food safety hazards within your business to make sure that all food is safe to be consumed.

We recommend working on, implementing, and maintaining an FSMS by studying the principles of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines.

Taking temperatures at the right time of day:

Temperature control is crucial when preparing and storing food. This is because there are harmful bacteria present on many of the foods that are handled on a day-to-day basis. These bacteria multiply quickly when food is stored at room temperature.

Bacteria are invisible to the naked eye, so you cannot physically remove them from items of food. However, their numbers can be controlled using two popular methods:

1. Bacteria can be reduced and destroyed by cooking or reheating certain foods.

2. Bacterial growth can be controlled by refrigerating or keeping food warm.

When cooking meats, they must be cooked through. If they are not fully cooked, the raw meat can cause food poisoning.

Keeping raw and ready to eat foods separate in the fridge and freezer:

Another crucial aspect of best practice food hygiene policies in nurseries is never to let seafood, raw meat, or poultry touch ready-to-eat foods or cooked meats. If raw and cooked foods touch, this can spread food-borne pathogens via cross-contamination. If these pathogens are consumed, they can lead to severe forms of food poisoning.

Don’t prepare food too far in advance and remember to put use by dates on food items:

Fresh food is best, especially when catering for young children. The fresher the food, the more nutrient-dense and healthy it is for development. However, if you must prepare food in batches for later use, all food containers/products must be clearly labelled with the date of preparation and expiry date. This lets other staff know when to throw food away and helps to prevent stale food from being served.

Maintaining a cleaning schedule

One of the easiest ways for bacteria to spread around a kitchen is via unclean or poorly sanitised surfaces. For this reason, a thorough cleaning schedule must be designed and implemented for your nursery food preparation, serving, and dining area.

This includes a thorough cleaning of all surfaces, floors, protective equipment, utensils, crockery, tables, and cleaning areas. A cleaning schedule helps to keep people accountable for essential cleaning while also protecting the health and safety of staff and children.


Cross-contamination refers to moments when contaminants such as pathogens or bacteria contact food after spreading from surfaces, equipment, hands, or other foods. For example, if you cut raw chicken on a chopping board and then prepare salad on the same board, there is an increased chance that you will contaminate the salad via cross-contamination.

It’s vital that you put appropriate measures in place to avoid cross-contamination within your nursery. This process poses significant risks to the health of children and can be almost entirely avoided by efficient hygiene practices.

Cross-contamination can be avoided by:

Proper handwashing

Hands are the most common carriers of bacteria, so they must be scrubbed before handling food. The washing process must be completed using antibacterial soap and warm water. We recommend washing hands for over twenty seconds and making sure that you wash between fingers, across palms, and around the back of the hands.

Once clean, hands should be dried using a fresh paper towel, as this helps to stop them from picking up bacteria again.


All food prepared for children in your nursery must be cooked thoroughly. Incorrect cooking temperatures are perfect environments for bacteria to thrive. This can cause food poisoning if improperly cooked food is eaten.

There are several tips you can follow to avoid the spread of bacteria when cooking:

  • Use a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature of food. It’s recommended that you make sure cooked food reaches a temperature of 75°C.
  • You must keep hot food at 63ºC and throw it away after two hours if it’s not consumed.
  • Do not reheat food more than once; this helps bacteria to multiply to dangerous levels.
  • When reheating food using a microwave, follow the manufacturers’ instructions and ensure the food has no cold spots.
  • Avoid serving raw or partially raw foods. For example, you must cook any meats right through to the middle. Additionally, when cooking eggs, make sure no runny parts are remaining.
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Personal Hygiene

All staff must keep themselves clean and tidy at all times. Hair should be tied up in a bun, and nail polish/jewellery should be avoided. Any cuts or open wounds must be covered with brightly-coloured plasters when working with food.


Although sickness is unavoidable, any staff that are sick should not be serving or preparing food. It’s very easy for germs to spread onto food, potentially causing illness for nursery staff and children.

Food prepared safety in a nursery kitchen by a member of staff who has up to date food hygiene training

Why is it important to have a food hygiene policy?

By creating and implementing a Food Hygiene Policy, all nursery staff have a clear set of guidelines that are easy to follow. Additionally, the parents of children can be confident and reassured that their children will not be eating in an unclean or dangerous environment. You’ll also be able to satisfy Ofsted, should any inspections arise around food hygiene on your nursery premises.

As food hygiene requirements change all the time, your policy should be reviewed and updated every three years or whenever any changes occur in legislation or the nature of your business. For instance, if you grow the business and hire more catering staff, you should update your food hygiene guidelines to ensure a high standard is met at all times.

What should be included in my food hygiene policy?

A nursery food hygiene policy should include the following sections:

1. Introduction
2. Food Handling and Transport
3. Equipment and Premises
4. Cross-contamination of Foods
5. Temperature Control
6. Refrigerators
7. Food Handling Staff
8. Occupational Health
9. Accidents and Dangerous Occurrences
10. Knife Handling
11. Disposal of Waste
12. Safe Handling of Broken Glass
13. Cleaning

The policy must be accessible to all staff and relevant authorities and should be stored on your premises. A copy of this policy should be accessible in all areas where food is prepared, served, or handled.

We hope this guide has answered any questions that you may have regarding food hygiene in nurseries. We can’t stress the importance of following these guidelines enough.

By providing appropriate training for all staff, and creating a full food hygiene policy, you can prevent illness and contamination for all staff and children.

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About the author

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Marcel Deer

Marcel qualified as a journalist from Liverpool John Moore's University in 2009. After working in PR and digital marketing for five years, he spent two years working as a social media consultant. Since then, he's worked from 15 countries as a remote content writing/marketing expert.

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