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Food Handling and Preparation in a Child Care Setting

When evaluating a child care center, ask about how food is handled and what types of eating areas are provided.

  • Are meals or snacks prepared on-site? If so, where? What types of food are provided?
  • Are there any restrictions on what types of food children can bring?

Ask about the food preparation areas. Make sure the following standards are met:

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  • Counters and tabletops are clean.
  • Appliances are in good repair.
  • Cutting boards are nonporous (plastic, glass, or Formica; not wood).
  • Ready-to-eat foods are prepared and kept separately from uncooked products, such as raw meat.
  • Cabinets and refrigerators are clean and uncrowded.
  • Either disposable dishes and utensils are used, or all nondisposable dishes are cleaned in a dishwasher with water heated above 160°F (71.1°C).

Ask the following questions about how food is stored, prepared, and served:

  • Are all food containers labeled? Are children's individual meals (including breast milk) labeled with a name, date, and type of food?
  • How are child care and food preparation duties separated? If the same person is responsible for both, are the guidelines for hand-washing after diapering strictly enforced?
  • Are any raw foods prepared? If so, how? (Raw meats, raw eggs, or any products that contain raw eggs should not be served.)
  • Are children taught not to share food, utensils, or plates? How are spills handled? Are all items that are dropped on the floor discarded?
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised September 14, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 14, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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