The government’s approach to hospital food is not working and legally binding standards must be brought in, a campaigner has said.
Writing online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Katharine Jenner, chairwoman of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said a voluntary approach for hospitals to improve food did not go far enough.
She pointed to previous evidence that suggests many hospital meals contain more salt than a Big Mac.
“Several nutritional and environmental standards apply to food served in government departments and prisons,” she added. “So why are there no mandatory standards in English hospitals?
“I am not asking for standards that you would find only in a Michelin-starred restaurant; rather, healthier and more nutritious food with less salt and saturated fat that is sustainable, with higher animal welfare standards, and fair trade.”
Government figures suggest as many as 50,000 people a year could be dying with malnutrition in NHS hospitals in England, Ms Jenner went on.
In some hospitals, food is less environmentally friendly than food served at McDonald’s, food served to children in hospitals is “so unhealthy it couldn’t legally be offered in schools”, and “prison food is served fresher and warmer than hospital food”.
A survey by the Campaign for Better Hospital Food found that three out of every four hospital meals would qualify for a red light for fat under the Food Standards Agency’s traffic light system, while 15 out of 25 meals examined contained more salt than a Big Mac.
Ms Jenner said government support had not been forthcoming for the Hospital Food Bill introduced into the House of Lords, which would require the government to convene a body of experts to draft legally binding food standards for hospitals.
She said the government had created a “hospital food standards panel” to review how standards can be more stringently applied to patients’ meals “without making them legally binding”.
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