Kids' cake stalls closed

CLOSED DOWN: Savannah Galvin, 10, and Ethan Read, 7, hope Biz Kids food stalls can continue in Whangaparaoa.
CLOSED DOWN: Savannah Galvin, 10, and Ethan Read, 7, hope Biz Kids food stalls can continue in Whangaparaoa.

Child entrepreneurs have had their food stalls shut down under Auckland Council food safety regulations.

Biz Kids at The Plaza hold a monthly fair in the Whangaparaoa shopping mall.

The event is designed to give children business experience and has attracted more than 30 enterprises run by kids as young as 7.

The Plaza manager Anne Murphy and business owner Christina Galvin established the Sunday morning fair where, for $10, stalls are available to children to sell products to the public.

The fair was 4 months old when the council's environmental health unit heard about it.

The council told management the food stalls, selling goods ranging from home baked cakes to decorated biscuits, contravened food safety bylaws.

Food stands, which comprise about 20 of the 32 stalls, were deemed a possible health risk under the bylaws.

Shopping centre management has been forced to close all stalls selling food as a result, despite meetings between various parties to try to find a compromise.

That's upset Brent Robinson, Auckland Council Albany Ward candidate and father of Jackson, 10, and Sam, 7, who run a toy stall there.

He says it's a great community initiative by the centre management which gives the children real life experience on running a business, product buying, sales and marketing and dealing with the public.

"I have never seen my sons work together so well."

Other Hibiscus Coast community members say closing the food stalls is completely over the top, he says.

"It's PC gone mad.

"The public threat from the sale of a few home baked biscuits and cakes is minimal.

"What's next? Closing down school cake stalls and sausage sizzles?"

Mr Robinson was involved in meetings between centre management, Biz Kids and Auckland Council representatives.

"We tried to propose a fair and reasonable solution whereby the kids could still continue to participate in the fair and ensure that the appropriate regulations were met," he says. "Unfortunately, the council would not agree on a way forward."

He intends to keep fighting for Biz Kids and says any public support in helping find a way forward is appreciated.

Council environmental health manager Mervyn Chetty says his staff received a complaint from a member of the public who was concerned about food hygiene at Biz Kids.

The council is required to follow up such complaints, he says.

Officers investigated then advised shopping centre management on the rules and requirements for selling food to the public, he says.

"Biz Kids need to comply with these requirements, as do all the other food stalls, including preparing foods, particularly high-risk foods, at a registered kitchen, not at a home kitchen," Mr Chetty says.

"Our particular concerns were around the fact that some of the foods being sold, especially quiches, are high-risk foods."

Mr Chetty says the council has looked at various options for enabling some of the low-risk Biz Kids activities.

"We have met with the centre manager to work out a way Biz Kids can sell certain foods safely and minimise the compliance costs."

Organiser Christina Galvin says about 20 of the 32 stalls at the fair are affected.

She says she is in two minds about the food safety decision.

"It is a hard one because I have got to teach my daughter that these things happen in business, but I also do believe that it is a bit PC.

"These kids have learnt so much with Biz Kids so halting them that quickly really has turned a lot of them off – I think it has almost killed it."

Eleven-year-old Savannah Galvin has had to put her designer cupcake business on hold.

She spent a lot of time and effort baking and piping designs to entice people to her products and build up a customer base.

Savannah says she is frustrated her business now needs to change tack as she has invested all her profits into new cupcake equipment, such as different piping bag nozzles to enhance her tasty treats.

Anne Murphy says the monthly event has been unfairly classed as a market by the council which means adult rules apply and it has to be licensed.

She would like to see the council reconsider their classification.

Rodney Times