News / Good Food for Our Money Campaign

Senior government adviser calls for legal standards for hospital food

Professor Tim Lang, a leading expert in food policy and prominent government adviser, today joined campaigners to call for legally binding standards to improve hospital food.

Professor Tim Lang [1], a leading expert in food policy and prominent government adviser, today joined campaigners to call for legally binding standards to improve hospital food. This follows the publication of a report [2] which shows the government has ignored five warnings since 2006 that voluntary attempts to improve hospital food were failing [3], at a cost to the taxpayer of more than £54 million in the last ten years.

Professor Lang said said: “Improving hospital food would bring great benefits to many millions of patients, but it would also inspire consumers to choose healthier food when out of hospital care and support British farmers to go even further to improve their produce. By doing this, it would support a shift towards a more sustainable diet in the country at large, which we urgently need to achieve. Having worked with government to improve hospital food for more than ten years I have come to the conclusion that, to change hospital meals, the government must introduce clear food standards which are given strong legal backing”.

The publication of the 'Yet more hospital food failure: The bill rises to £54 million, and still counting…' report reveals that Ministers were last warned only weeks ago by the Government's Council of Food Policy Advisors, which includes Professor Lang in its membership, that voluntary attempts to improve hospital food had failed [3]. The Council's warning, published by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said:

Voluntary approaches to raising public sector catering standards have failed to deliver systemic change. It is time for the Government to make good on the goal set out in the Cabinet Office's Food Matters report by introducing mandatory standards covering health, environmental impact and animal welfare for the procurement and provision of public sector catering.

The report also found:

  • In the last two years alone the government has spent over three quarters of a million pounds on the early stages of developing a Healthier Food Mark [5] - the seventeenth voluntary initiative to improve hospital food since 2000.
  • Expenditure on the Healthier Food Mark includes contractual costs for Deloitte who have been hired by government to rescue the project.

The report was published by the Good Food for Our Money campaign, supported by a coalition of health and environmental charities. Alex Jackson, campaign co-ordinator, said: “Government has been deaf to repeated evidence that its 17 voluntary schemes over the past 10 years to improve hospital food have achieved next to nothing, at vast cost to taxpayers. Patients and their families want to see high quality food that helps people recover from illness, and helps our farmers make a good living whilst also protecting the environment. All government needs to do is introduce clear, legal standards for the food being served, and bring to an end this farce of repeated hospital food failure.

For more information please contact Alex Jackson or Richard Watts on Tel: 0203 5596 777 / Mobile: 07710 782719

Download "Yet more hospital food failure" as an 668kb PDF

 

Notes to Editor

1. Tim Lang is Professor of Food Policy at City University's Centre for Food Policy which specialises in how public and private policy shapes the food supply chain, what people eat and the societal, health, and environmental consequences. Tim is a member of the Council of Food Policy Advisors, which was established in 2008 by Hilary Benn MP to provide advice on food policy issues. Since 2006, Tim has been Natural Resources and Land Use Commissioner on the UK Government's Sustainable Development Commission. He is also a regular advisor / consultant to the World Health Organisation at global and European levels and has been a special advisor to four House of Commons Select Committee inquiries (food standards [twice], globalisation and obesity). For more information about Tim, please go to: http://www.city.ac.uk/communityandhealth/phpcfp/foodpolicy/about/timlang.html

2. The report is an update of a previous campaign report called 'A Decade of Hospital Food Failure', published in December 2009. The update follows publication of new expenditure data (via Parliamentary Questions) on the rising costs of the controversial Healthier Food Mark, the seventeenth government-led voluntary initiative to improve hospital food over the past 10 years. The report issued today is entitled 'Yet more hospital food failure: The bill rises to £54 million, and still counting…' It analyses government policy announcements, commitments and initiatives intended to improve hospital food since 1995, and includes a foreword by Professor Tim Lang.

3. The updated report issued today shows that government was publicly advised on four separate occasions that voluntary initiatives to improve hospital food had failed, i.e.:

  • June 2006 Publication of the National Action Plan by the Sustainable Procurement Task Force
  • April 2009 Publication of evaluation of the 'Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative' by Deloitte
  • May 2009 Compass Group plc (the largest caterer in the world) giving evidence to the government's Council of Food Policy Advisers that uniform standards would be beneficial for efficiency reasons
  • September 2009 Publication of first policy report by the government's Council of Food Policy Advisers calling for mandatory food standards in the public sector
  • March 2009 Publication of second policy report by the government's Council of Food Policy Advisers calling for mandatory food standards in the public sector: http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/food/policy/council/pdf/cfpa-rpt-100315.pdf

4. An official answer to a Parliamentary Question reveals that the government has so far spent £788,000 on the Healthier Food Mark since 2009, which includes a contract for the management consultant Deloitte to oversee development of the standards and a pilot. This figure had not previously been published by Government. For Hansard reference, see: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2010-02-02c.314187.h

5. The Department of Health, working with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is currently piloting yet another voluntary initiative, the Healthier Food Mark, to encourage public sector caterers to work towards bronze, silver or gold standards for health and sustainability. This has already proved controversial, heavily criticised for being weak, lacking in ambition and plagued by numerous delays. See:
http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publichealth/Healthimprovement/Healthyliving/HealthierFoodMark/index.htm

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Published 31 Mar 2010

Good Food for Our Money Campaign: The Good Food for Our Money campaign ran from 2008 to 2011. After several notable successes, this campaign has now evolved to focus on winning healthy and sustainable food standards for hospital food, in parallel with Sustain's existing work on the Children's Food Campaign to secure healthy and sustainable food standards for school meals.

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