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Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announces measures to improve the food served to hospital patients in England

Hospital caterers in England have been charged with improving the food served to patients under new measures announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The new standards, which will be enforced through legally-binding NHS contracts, focus on quality, choice and promoting a healthy diet for patients and staff. Hospitals will also be ranked on the meals they prepare and the rankings will be published on the NHS Choices website.
The rankings will relate to quality and choice of food, whether the menu is approved by a dietitian, the availability of fresh fruit and food between meals, the variety of options at breakfast (which should include warm food) and the cost of the food provided.

The new standards require hospitals to provide fish twice a week; seasonal produce; tap water; cooked rice, potatoes and vegetables without salt; half of all desserts should be fruit; and half of tea and coffee should be Fairtrade.

Campaigners for improvements to hospital food are worried the initiative does not go far enough, however. Although NHS England has agreed to include hospital food standards in the next NHS Contract, which will be published later this year, they are not to be set down in legislation. NHS hospitals in Scotland and Wales already have nutritional standards in place.