Food safety at early learning services

Your early learning service must provide food safely to your children, to comply with food safety legislation.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • All early learning services
  • Service managers
  • Parents, caregivers and whānau
  • Educators, teachers and kaiako

All early learning services provide food must comply with the Food Act 2014 and the Food Regulations 2015. 

What do these regulations mean for early learning services?

The Food Act 2014 and the Food Regulations 2015 state a service’s responsibilities.

Food Act 2014 – New Zealand Legislation(external link) 

Food Regulations 2015 – New Zealand Legislation(external link)

Working with a national programme is the way that lower-risk food businesses operate under the Food Act. There are three levels of national programmes, which are based on the food safety risk of the activities that a business performs. All national programmes require:

  • record keeping to show that you are selling safe food
  • registration of business details with your local council
  • one or more visits from a verifier recognised by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Most services that provide food to children will need to operate under National Programme 2.

National Programme 2 – Ministry for Primary Industries(external link)

Not all services need to register, only services that cook meals or prepare food need to register under national programme two.

You do not need to register if:

  • all food at your service is brought in by children from their home (for example, in lunch boxes)
  • you only serve fruit or pre-packaged snacks that do not need to be kept cold (like muffins or crackers)
  • you prepare food with the children only as part of the curriculum
  • you run a home-based service
  • you do not charge fees (or charge for the food through any other means).

To find out if the type of food provision at your service is subject to National Programme 2, you can use MPI's My Food Rules tool.

My Food Rules tool – Ministry for Primary Industries(external link)

What you need to do if you are on National Programme 2

Make food safe

  • Keep hands and kitchen surfaces clean.
  • Keep cooked and raw food separate.
  • Cook and store food at the correct temperature.

Register with your local Council

  • If you run more than one centre and they are in different council areas, you can choose to register with MPI.

Arrange for a verifier to visit your centre to check that you are making safe food

  • You do not need to be verified straight away.
  • You should choose a verifier before you register and list them on your application form.
  • If you cannot find a suitable verifier straight away, you can register without one for now.

Get checked

  • Your verifier will visit to make sure that you are set up to make safe and suitable food.
  • They will also look through the food records that you are required to maintain.

When you need to do it

  • New centres must be verified within a month of opening.
  • Existing centres and kōhanga reo should have now applied for registration and will have up to 12 months from registering to get verified.

You will be verified once every 3 years, if there are no food safety issues.

What if I am exempt?

If you do not need to register, there is nothing else you have to do except make sure any food you serve is safe to eat. The resources below from MPI provide helpful guidance and safety tips for all early learning services. 

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