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Healthy Eating

17 Irish hospitals have yet to roll out calorie counts on menus

Improving the standard of food has been highlighted as a priority by Health Minister Simon Harris.

DESPITE THE HSE rolling out a calorie count policy across all its facilities in 2015, some 17 hospitals do not feature them on their menus.

Three years ago, the health service approved the implementation of a calorie posting policy across all HSE facilities as part of the Healthy Eating and Active Living and Staff Health and Wellbeing.

The purpose of this policy was to promote awareness and increase consumption of healthier food and drink choices amongst staff and the public using and visiting healthcare facilities, such as hospitals.

The policy states that calorie content of food and drinks provided in HSE facilities should be highlighted.

The policy applies to all in-house catering and contracted catering and vending services throughout the HSE.

In a reply to a parliamentary question by Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson, Billy Kelleher, about what hospitals display calorie counts on its menus, the HSE said 17 of the 50 public and voluntary hospitals listed do not display calorie counts on their full menus.

The majority of hospitals display calorie counts on the breakfast menu, the breakdown shows.

But a total of 17 hospitals have not yet rolled out the breakdown of calories on its full menu. These include:

  • St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin
  • South Tipperary General Hospital
  • Cork University Hospital
  • Mallow General Hospital
  • Bantry General Hospital
  • University Hospital Waterford
  • Lourdes Orthopaedic Hospital, Kilkenny
  • Ennis General Hospital and Nenagh General Hospital (both said it would be implemented following standardised recipe implementation)
  • Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown
  • Beaumont Hospital
  • Monaghan Hospital
  • Louth General Hospital
  • Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan
  • Merlin park
  • Midlands Regional Hospital
  • University Hospital Limerick (said it is implemented on 75% of menus)

All three of the children’s hospitals have rolled out calorie counts on its menus.

Kelleher told said that he did not want to overburden Irish hospitals with more bureaucratic red tape, but said it is important that healthy food is on offer to both patients and staff.

“Calorie counts on menus indicate to people exactly what they are eating, It is only reasonable, particularly for patients who are staying in hospital for a longer period of time, that they can view calorie counts to make appropriate decisions about their diet,” he said.

Criticism of hospital food 

The standard of food in Irish hospitals has been criticised over the last few years.

A number of negative stories about poor hospital food hit the headlines in recent years, prompting the government to take action.

In Dublin, the Coombe maternity hospital reviewed its menu and improved the choices on offer after this photo of a meal served to one patient prompted criticism (see below). Similar local changes were also made at other hospitals

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In 2014, the Taoiseach (then health minister) said he would meet with a Michelin-starred chef to discuss how to improve the quality of hospital food.

Dietitian to overhaul hospital food 

A nationwide survey about hospital food and patient nutrition published in 2016 found that some patients were forced to ask their families to bring in food for them.

The study by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found that 86% of the patients they spoke to were happy with how they were fed while in hospital but identified a number of areas for improvement.

Last year, the HSE announced that a dietitian is to be hired to help oversee improvements in the standard of food on offer at Irish hospitals – for staff as well as patients/

The Department of Health is undertaking an effort to improve the quality of food at hospitals, and current minister Simon Harris highlighted it as a priority of his.

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