Babies and young children are at increased risk of choking on food because they have small air and food passages and are still learning to move food around in their mouths and learning how to bite, chew and grind food.

To reduce risk of choking, early learning services should remove high-risk foods and alter the texture or size and shape of others. The Heart Foundation have created these resources to support the implementation of the requirements:

Food provided by parents

Where food is provided by parents, early learning services are required to promote best practice as set out in the Ministry of Health Guidance and provide the guidance to all parents. Promotion of best practice will look different at each service. For example, as part of their food policy, a service may choose to exclude foods supplied by parents that are identified as a choking hazard (much like services that ban nuts due to a child having an allergy). While we recommend services consider the above example, it is not a requirement and it is up to each service to decide, in consultation with their parents, whether they want to amend their Food Policy so that it includes these revised requirements.

Do services need to check the lunchboxes of children and remove food that poses a high risk to choking?

No. Our requirement is that services must give parents a copy of the guidance and promote it.

Services may set their own food policies, and some do. For example, to ban nuts where a child attending the service has an allergy. It is the choice of each service as to whether they want to have a food policy for parents that matches the requirements services must follow in providing food. As with all policies this should be developed in consultation with parents. However, services are not required to check and exclude any high choking risk food parents provide under these changes. Where such food is provided by parents for their child, health and safety obligations remain for the ECE service under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

This applies to any food provided by parents for their own child in home-based early learning settings.

Is the Ministry banning parents from putting food that poses a high risk to choking in their child’s lunchbox?

No. The requirements for food under the new criteria apply only to food provided and prepared by early learning services (centre-based and home-based early learning services and ngā kōhanga reo). Where parents provide food, services are required to promote best practice as set out in the Ministry of Health Guidance - Reducing food related choking for babies and young children at early learning services. A service could choose to promote best practice by deciding to put the same requirements in place for parents – but this is a decision for each service to make in consultation with parents. Some services already have food policies in place to exclude foods that a child attending the service may be allergic to, for example nuts.


Last updated 9 February 2021.