A ban on sausages, hard rice crackers, dried fruit and popcorn in early childcare centres has created a stir with parents and professionals split on whether the rules have gone too far.
New food rules for early childcare centres which aim to prevent choking come into force next week and mean centres which provide food are no longer allowed to give children nuts, large seeds, hard or chewy lollies, crisps, hard rice crackers, dried fruit, sausages or saveloys, popcorn and marshmallows.
Small hard food like raw apple or carrot has to be grated if raw or cooked until soft and cut into strips.
Stones and large seeds must be removed from fruit, including watermelon, while grapes, berries and cherry tomatoes must be quartered or finely chopped. Peas must be cooked and squashed with a fork for under-3s. Whole cooked peas are acceptable for older children.
Skin must be removed from chicken, stone fruit, apples, pears and tomatoes and raw salad leaves must be finely chopped.
Meat must be cooked until very tender and minced, shredded or finely chopped.
Services that do not provide food are required to promote the guidance to all parents although it is not compulsory for parents to adhere to them.
Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds today told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking he believed the Ministry of Education had gone too far by making the rules compulsory rather than keeping them as guidelines.
"These people are trained teachers. They know how to supervise children and supervise their eating habits.
"We have every sympathy for the incident that happened a couple of years ago now, for the family whose child choked on some food and as a result suffered a brain injury. That's not what we want to see happen but this is an over-reaction. It's wrapping kids in cotton wool and is unnecessary."
Young Neihana Renata was left with severe brain damage after he choked on a piece of apple at daycare in 2016.
"I understand the motivation behind it. They've reacted emotionally to the horrible situation that occurred a couple of years ago but we need to be more pragmatic than this," Reynolds said.
"We need to have a look and say actually, the guidelines are pretty good as guidelines. Why don't we just make sure services are taking note of those, are doing something to make sure their supervision is appropriate and that where appropriate foods are required, that's what's being served."
Reynolds said the rules made "a bit of a mockery" of the situation because apple provided by a centre had too be peeled and grated but if it was provided by a parent it did not have to be.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said in December the amendments were designed to keep young children safe by minimising the risk of choking.
"Prior to this change, early learning services were encouraged to follow the Ministry of Health guidance on the provision of food. Now it will be compulsory," she said. "Food choices must also meet the nutritional and developmental needs of each child."
Children will also be required to be seated and supervised while eating and more staff will be required to have a current first aid qualification.
Casey today said the guidelines had been in place for some time but after talking to the Renata family and listening to their concerns the Ministry decided the requirements should be made mandatory.
"It was a tragic accident and we should all learn from that," she said.
Casey also said it appeared there had been some confusion among early learning services with many under the impression that lunches sent by parents also had to meet the requirements.
"They are not required to check lunchboxes and they are not required to take food off children that their parents have sent them with," she said. "We are moving to clear that up as quickly as we can."
Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand welcomed the changes, saying anything that reduced risk and enhanced the health of the country's youngest children was "extremely welcome".
"It is heartening to see the new guidelines provide guidance not just on choking risks for young children, but also on healthy food choices," said Te Rito Maioha general manager of workforce and business development Nikki Parsons.
"The guidelines will provide much-needed clarity for services and also guidance for whānau on the safest food options and how to minimise food-associated risks."
Many parents were also more than happy with the change.
Marama Renata told the Rotorua Daily Post they were "absolutely thrilled with the news".
The Renata family have been campaigning for the changes since their son Neihana choked on a piece of apple at daycare in 2016 and left the then 22-month-old with brain damage. He now cannot walk or talk.
The incident meant she now kept her children much closer.
"I'm not so trusting that they will be safe. I will be reluctant for the baby to go anywhere without me until she's much older," she said. "Sometimes I reflect on how difficult life can be for Neihana, and when he misses out on moving and playing - that does make me sad."
Other parents the Herald spoke to were also comfortable with the changes.
"When we are trusting our kids to be cared for by others and it's never one-on-one supervision, then I'd rather they were extra cautious. The kids have plenty of opportunity to branch out more with their foods at dinner and weekends when they are with us and being watched one-on-one," one parent said.
Another parent said that, while children did need to learn to eat those sorts of food, it was best done at home, rather than daycare, where parents could supervise.