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Hospital food needs mandatory standards, urges campaigner


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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Readers' comments (40)

  • If we had endless pots of money this would be a priority - we don't so it isn't. Generally, people aren't in hospital for the whole of their life, so a few days of crappy food isn't going to kill them or give them a coronary or raise their blood pressure, is it?

    We've had too much of this nonsense: can anyone remember Chicken al la king care of Lloyd Grossman? I also note some other 'celeb chef' from the BBC pouncing around in a hospital kitchen on TV more recently.

    Most people who are ill fancy a bit of 'stodge' not a Brie and pecan salad!

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  • given the choice of a fry-up or a slice of brown bread and a bowl of cereal for breakfast what do you think most patients would choose?
    i think hospital food is pretty good, it's free, you get three meals a day plus snacks inbetween.
    god, can we ever get anything right or be thanked for what we do?

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  • food needs to be nutritious, promote healing, adapted to individual needs and taste of each patient, palatable, well presented and served in suitable quantities for each individual. a reasonable budget to enable this must follow, it is all part of healthcare. if hospitals can't afford it there should be a compulsory nominal charge for all equivalent to and no more than what patients on a modest income would expect to pay at home and with financial support for those who are too poor to eat adequately at home.

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  • Removed due to personally offensive nature. Please refer to terms and conditions:<br/><br/><br/>

  • always an issue... I have come from chef to nurse, and although I sympathise with food choices available, it is more often presentation that puts patients off food, i encourage vistors to bring in food, better something than nothing

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  • Anonymous | 22-Dec-2013 8:32 pm


    when I visited a friend of mine her blood sugar was measured at 14 - all her friends were bring her in cream cakes!

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  • Anonymous | 22-Dec-2013 5:35 pm

    do you seriously believe a registered and experienced nurse wrote the comment?

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  • Anonymous | 22-Dec-2013 8:58 pm


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  • Anonymous | 22-Dec-2013 5:35 pm

    What a potty mouth you are. Your father lost weight because he was septic: burning more calories and all that. He should've been given a fortified, high calorie diet, but people who are unwell often don't feel like eating big meals or anything at all.

    So I'm presuming you brought your father in home cooked food or sweets, biscuits and snacks to help sustain him or took him to the hospital canteen where there may have been more options? No of course you didn't.

    It wasn't the options on the menu that led to all those patients suffering at Mid Staffs, now was it? Of course nutrition is very important, but bearing in mind that most hospital stays are relatively short, does it really matter if people are offered airline-style pre-cooked meals that are often fortified with nutrients? As long as those who are deemed 'at risk' are given an appropriate menu, I don't see the problem.

    If we really want to make a difference in the populations health, should we not concentrate on what people are eating when they're not in hospital?

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  • Anonymous | 23-Dec-2013 2:28 pm

    Another ignorant comment based poor assumption and lack of knowledge. But hey, why let ignorance of facts get in the way of a supposedy smart *rse post?! Of course you don't see a problem. That's problem number one.

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