Ministry of Education's new food safety recommendations for daycare 'very unrealistic' - Early Childhood CEO

Parents and early childhood education teachers are finding it tricky to adjust to the Ministry of Health's new food safety recommendations for lunchboxes.

The recommendations from the Ministry of Education (MoH)  suggest banning foods such as hard rice crackers, dried fruit and nuts.

The rules come after a 22-month-old boy was left severely brain-damaged after choking on a raw apple at his Rotorua daycare in 2016.

Neihana Renata was left starved of oxygen for 30 minutes and now he cannot walk or talk.

Small hard foods are considered a high risk as it could be difficult for young children to bite through and break down the pieces to swallow safely.

The MoH suggests grating or cooking at-risk foods such as raw carrot, apple or celery for children under the age of three. They also suggested finely chopping grapes, berries and cherry tomatoes.

But Dr Julie Bhosale, a family nutrition expert, told Stuff it's not a practical suggestion.

Grated carrots and apples are "very unrealistic to do in a lunchbox" because it turns brown quickly, she told Stuff NZ.

"We have to be really careful in public health that when we make a suggestion it has to be a real and viable suggestion," she said.

"Parents are going to look at this and say it is too hard."

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds told The Project on Wednesday he believed the Ministry of Education had gone too far by making these suggestions for daycare centres.

"My sympathy goes out to that family and to other families who've experienced children who have choked on food - it's a pretty scary thing," he said.

"We've got staff who are trained who are working with those children. Now things can happen - we wanna make sure that the staff are aware of what to do in the event that a child starts to choke. 

"It's not just the foods that might be on the 'bad list' that's been supplied, it could be something else."

This story was amended 23 January to reflect that the MOE recommendations are not compulsory.