THE HOSPITAL Caterers Association (HCA) has hit back at claims that much of the food served in hospitals is coming from animals reared in low-welfare conditions.
The RSPCA and the Campaign for Better Hospital Food said that in a survey of every Hospital Trust in England it found that 70% of eggs are from hens kept in cages and more than half the countrys hospitals dont serve any cage-free eggs.
The HCA said it does not know how many NHS Trusts responded to the survey, when it was undertaken, who completed the responses and how the questions were posed, but suggested the claims made are misleading.
We do not know when this data was collected so can only assume that it was pre-2012, said HCA national chair Janice Gillan. An EU directive banned the production and sale of eggs from caged hens from January 1st 2012. This directive was endorsed by the UK and producers agreed to no longer sell eggs from caged hens in the UK which means that no catering industry sector is purchasing or using eggs from caged hens. The only exception to the EU initiative in this regard relates to eggs from hens reared in enriched cages.
Hospital caterers in England either procure their food products through the Governments NHS supply chain or direct from suppliers using their own individual purchasing specifications. The HCA has no knowledge of how these might set out each Trusts requirement with regard to provenance information on meat products or accreditations for ethical farming practices.
However, the HCA is working on the development of its own set of national criteria as a pro-forma for procurement specifications. The aim is for these to also be adopted by hospital caterers to ensure that their suppliers meet minimum quality standards and that they can obtain clear verification from them of produce provenance, sustainability and nationally recognised ethical farming accreditations.
The HCA also welcomed the Governments recent announcement about new hospital food standards, which it believes will help to establish a level playing field by which all hospital food operators will have to abide.
One of the eight fundamental food principles included in this initiative, relates to the Government Buying Standards for Food being adopted as standard where practical. As part of its commitment to this move, Gillan said the HCA will be providing support and practical assistance to caterers to help them overcome any obstacles to applying these in their respective hospital sites or geographical regions.
Gillan acknowledged that, as the simplest form of medicine, food is as integral to patient care and wellbeing as medication and treatment. Hospital caterers recognise this, she said, and the important contribution good nutrition makes to improving clinical outcomes.
Providing food to patients of the highest possible standard within available budgets, is of the utmost priority. This also includes sourcing fresh produce from sustainable and accredited sources wherever possible, she added.