ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
National membership 

Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


Time’s Up: Where’s the new rules for child safety?

Before the actions of his early childhood centre put his life in danger

Two years ago, Dr Sarah Alexander worked on a report on a tragic incident involving a toddler who choked on a piece of apple while having afternoon tea at an early childhood centre.

This led to the TVNZ Sunday Documentary on 31 March 2019, "Forbidden Fruit". Reporter: Janet McIntyre. Senior Producer Julia Sartorio.

But, as at the 15th October 2020 the Ministry of Education are yet to make changes to the rules to make it safer for children in centres.

Why? Perhaps it is because not one person from the Ministry of Education fronted or was willing to talk on the TVNZ Sunday documentary, or publicly take some responsibility? 

A one-year old can still be given boiled lollies, whole grapes, or raw apple slices and there would be no consequences for the early childhood service. As far back as 2009 the Ministry of Education promised another family whose 14-month-old died after choking on a piece of apple at a centre, that it would change requirements so that apples would have to be grated for young children.

In October 2019 the Ministry of Education indicated it would be amending its licensing criteria to make it clear that children should not be given foods known to be high choking risks. It invited sector and public feedback on its proposals. The consultation period closed three weeks later. It's now a year since change was promised. 

A copy of the original report and related materials can be found here: Choking on raw apple: A report into a tragic incident 

See also an article:  An attitude in the sector that safety doesn't matter - its survival of the fittest

The following are recommendations Dr Alexander made as a result of her investigation:

  1. The Ministry of Education must add to its licensing criteria a rule that no child is to be provided food known to be high risk, unless the texture has been altered to reduce risk (e.g. raw apple is stewed or grated), according to Ministry of Health guidelines for food safety.
  2. First aid training requirements must be reviewed to ensure there are at least two adults in the centre who are trained and are able to correctly demonstrate in practice the recommended first-aid for a young child who is choking.
  3. Following every serious incident involving hospitalisation or death the Ministry of Education must change its practice of only investigating if the family make a complaint. It must always carry out a full licensing inspection of the service for compliance. And, it must properly investigate what happened and provide a publicly available report detailing the actions and factors that led to the incident and what can be learned to reduce the chance of something similar happening again.
  4. The Ministry of Education must start demonstrating an ethic of care and communicate with and support the family following a serious incident, and expect service providers to demonstrate an ethic of care too. 



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