From TheFamilyGP.com Featuring Dr Chris Steele MBE

Children's hospital food 'shockingly unhealthy'

Full of fat and salt

Nearly half of hospital meals given to children are too unhealthy to be served in schools, as they contain too much fat and salt, a new survey has found.

A survey carried out for Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) found that 85 of 189 meals served in hospitals exceeded the maximum amount of fat and salt allowed in school meals.

Now health campaigners are calling for nutritional standards to be introduced for hospital food.

According to the Food Standards Agency’s traffic light labelling scheme, one in three of the 451 meals surveyed would be classified "red" for saturated fat and salt.

A chicken tikka masala and rice served in a hospital was found to contain a whopping 14 times more salt (2.2g) and 8.5 times more saturated fat (6.0g) than a chicken & vegetable balti with rice, served in a school.

In another example, a portion of hospital lasagne contained nearly six times more salt (3.2g) than one served in schools (0.57g).

Pizza served in hospital contained nearly double the amount of salt (2.43g) of one served in schools (1.35g).

A sticky toffee sponge pudding with butterscotch contained six times more saturated fat (19g) compared to similar desserts served in schools, and over twice the amount of saturated fat allowed in the average school lunch (7.9g).

Professor Graham MacGregor, of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH, said: “With everything we know about the risk of children developing high blood pressure and diet-related diseases such as obesity, it is vital to keep their consumption of salt and saturated fat as low as possible, whilst still being appetising.

“When such great progress has been made on what pupils are eating in school it is shocking that children in hospitals are being ignored.”

The findings follow a report by food campaign group Sustain published in March, which concluded that in the last ten years government has wasted more than £54 million of public money on unsuccessful attempts to get hospitals to improve their food on a voluntary basis.

This article was published on Mon 11 October 2010