Childcare providers and parents know how quickly illness can spread among the children in a center. 

Illnesses are commonly spread through food. Staff who are ill or have come in contact with someone sick can unknowingly contaminate the foods prepared and served to children. From something as little as a sniffle to something as serious as improper food handling, 

Contaminated food products brought into the kitchen can also be the cause of an outbreak. 

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of foodborne illness vary and include the following:

  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Symptoms typically ease and disappear after 2 – 4 days, but in some cases, food poisoning can be life-threatening. 

Food Safety Precautions

In light of food contamination cases in preschools and childcare centres across Singapore, many parents have expressed their fears over food safety preparations, even in large catering companies. 

In-house cooks in Singapore should be trained and certified by NEA and follow the guidelines by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

  • Clean — Wash hands, clean surfaces often and disinfect regularly
  • Separate — Don’t cross-contaminate cooked and uncooked food
  • Cook — Cook to the right temperature (if possible, insert a food thermometer to measure)
  • Keep – Keep food at safe temperatures, both for serving and storage  for leftover food)
  • Reheat – Always heat leftover foods to 165ºF to kill all potentially dangerous bacteria

How can I prevent foodborne illness as a caregiver?

Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands after you use the washroom and before you handle any food. Proper handwashing includes the following steps:

  • Take off arm and hand accessories
  • Scrub all parts of your hands, including between fingers and under nails, even your wrists, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Rinse them under warm water
  • Dry your hands with a clean cloth or paper towel

Wash and sanitize surfaces and utensils

Foodborne illness can be caused by using the same cutting board, plate or cooking utensil to prepare raw meat, poultry, seafood or vegetable for preparing or serving ready-to-eat food items.

  • Always wash and sanitize surfaces where you prepare and serve food
  • Keep raw food products separate from one another (many of them produce juices or liquids that contain bacteria when raw). 
  • Keep them away from other ready-to-eat foods. 
  • Rinse cutting boards, plates and utensils with hot soapy water and then sanitize them before re-using them for cooked food.

Here’s some ways you can make your own natural sanitizing solution from household products.

Serving Meals to Children in Child Care

  • Serve foods on a plate, napkin or bowl rather than directly on the table
  • Discard cracked or chipped plates, cups and bowls 
  • Discard all leftovers on children’s plates and in serving dishes that were placed on the table where children ate; do not save them for later
  • Discard food waste in a covered rubbish bin with a liner, and empty the bin at the end of the day (or sooner if full)

Don’t prepare foods when you are sick

This is a big no-no. If you have any of the symptoms of foodborne illness, or if you have any infected cuts or sores, or if you have a cough/ cold/ not feeling well, you should not handle, prepare or serve food.

If absolutely necessary, wear gloves, cover with a face mask and wear a hair net to prevent unnecessary germs from contaminating the food.

Alternatively, you could get an in-house cook to handle all this for you and your childcare centre.


Glad you asked…

  1. The chef handles meal planning

While all people need good nutrients, it’s especially important for kids to get them. Their bodies are still developing, and if they don’t get the right mix of nutrients, they could fall behind in the development stage.

Outside of providing the best nutrition for kids’ growing bodies, healthy meals and balanced diets can also benefit their brains in a big way. There are certain compounds children need in their diets for brain development. But the problem is, these cannot be found easily. 

For example, you might not spend a lot of time thinking about whether or not your children are getting enough iodine and iron in their diets. But those are two key nutrients that kids need to further brain development! 

But with specific menu planning, meals are engineered according to the nutritional needs of children. 

PLUS your childcare centre will be able to get the Healthy Pre-school Accreditation by the Health Promotion Board. This increases parents’ trust in you and you can also enjoy higher attendance…simply because children are healthier!

  1. It eliminates the stress of cooking

Cooking can be a stressful task for many people, even more so when you already have children to look after. Preparing a meal is laborious and time-consuming. From planning and grocery shopping to storing and cooking. It can take a while to accomplish even the smallest tasks with so many other things on your mind that you need to handle.

If you calculate the time spent thinking and stressing out about the menu for the next few days…or searching up recipes and hoping they will turn out fine…it amounts to a fair bit. 

And that time could be better used strategizing a better curriculum for children. That’s a way better use of your time and expertise.

Now you have one more staff on deck to help with changing the lives of these young minds.

  1. Meals are customizable

Another great thing about a dedicated in-house cook for your preschool is that all meals can be tailored to each individual’s dietary needs. Children are picky eaters. And some children have specific dietary needs or restrictions (like allergies or due to religious requirements). 

As a childcare centre or preschool, you have a say in how what types of food you want to be included or excluded from the menu as well. After all, you know your students’ preferences best and you’re the expert. 

Going with another service, like an external catering company as opposed to an in-house cook, doesn’t give you this level of customization. 

Meals can be more personal and enjoyable this way. The best thing is that children will look forward to mealtimes and still receive the high-quality nutrients they need to grow strong!

  1. Chefs will clean up after meals

This is a life-saver for many childcare centres we help. 

Let’s face it, we might love to cook but all of us dread cleaning up after preparing a meal in the kitchen…

Whether you buy groceries from the supermarket or even just use a meal delivery service, there’s still going to be clean up involved. You know it, when children are done with their food, they get rowdy and want to get on to the next activity of the day. 

The last thing you want is to have one or two staff taking their focus off the kids, and on their knees cleaning the floor, washing dishes and clearing up the mess. 

It’s times like these that you’ll be so grateful you have an aid helping to sort this out for you. You don’t have to worry about the stress of wiping everything down, cleaning spots, picking up food particles, and throwing things away. 


Food Safety Requirements in Pre-Schools and In-house Cooking Services

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