According to health campaigners almost half of children’s meals served in NHS hospitals are too fatty and contain too much salt, .
A recent survey claims that half of NHS meals for children do not meet health standards set down for school meals.
Tools are available to support caterers in assessing the nutritional content of meals.
A report by the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) and campaign group Sustain found 85 of 189 (almost half) of childrens’ hospital meals checked would be too unhealthy to be served up in schools because they exceeded the maximum school standard for salt and fat
A third of all 451 meals tested would be classified as “red” for saturated fat or salt, according to the Food Standards Agency’s traffic light labelling scheme, meaning they should be eaten in smaller amounts or infrequently.
Cash wants to see the creation of nutritional guidelines for hospital food. The DoH said it was concerned by the group’s report, which found a chicken tikka curry and rice served in a hospital contained 14 times more salt (2.2g) and 8.5 times more saturated fat (6g) than a chicken and vegetable balti with rice in a school meal.
The study examined the nutritional content of meals provided by leading hospital food suppliers across the UK and compared them with the standards set out for schools.
Professor Graham McGregor, the chairman of Cash, told the BBC: “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, while still being appetising.”
A total of 41% of primary school pupils eat school lunches, an increase of 2.1% on 2008-09, a survey by the School Food Trust this year showed.
Joan Walley, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, has introduced a bill in parliament calling for all food served in public sector settings, including hospitals, to be subject to mandatory nutritional standards.
She said: “It is really important that children are served food in hospital which they like, but we must also make sure that it is nourishing and healthy for them to eat.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We recognise the importance of good quality food for patients of all ages, both in terms of improving their health and in relation to their overall experience of services.
“Tools are available to support caterers in assessing the nutritional content of meals.”