RSPCA questions welfare standards of hospital food
Thursday 15 November 2012
An expose by the RSPCA into the sources of hospital food has revealed that most animal products served in hospitals come from animals reared “in poor conditions.” The study revealed eggs, chicken and pork came from animals raised on basic welfare standards.
The RSPCA and Campaign for Better Hospital Food have called on the government to introduce a mandatory minimum standard for hospital food in England. The government itself was subject to scrutiny this time last year, when an investigation by RSPCA and organic certification body the Soil Association revealed its much-publicised ethical food commitments set lower standards than those adhered to by fast food chain McDonald’s. http://www.farming.co.uk/news/article/5580
RSPCA demanded the government ensure that all eggs served in hospitals come from cage-free birds and that all chicken and pork meets its own welfare standards. The welfare group’s study revealed 71 per cent of eggs served by hospitals are laid by caged hens (well below the national average).
The charity also expressed concerns over the welfare standards of meat served in hospitals. RSPCA said meat served in such institutions should match “standards demanded by shoppers in British supermarkets,” given that “animal welfare [is] becoming an increasingly important consideration for consumers.”
RSPCA pointed out that its findings about hospital sourcing policies fly in the face of data showing over half of eggs produced in the UK are now cage-free, and supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S and the Co-operative have banned cage eggs altogether.
David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the RSPCA, said, “Even hospitals serving food made from free range eggs in their coffee shops and cafeterias are still delivering food made with cage eggs to patients. We support the idea of having standards for hospital food.”
Alex Jackson, Co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, also commented, “It's disgraceful for the taxpayer to pay for hospital food which causes misery to animals. The government must introduce mandatory higher animal welfare standards for all hospital food in England to improve its quality and taste, and guarantee that it is produced from animals living happy lives.”
In response to the calls, a government spokesperson said, "Patients deserve the highest standards, and they have the right to expect food that is high quality and healthy. Individual hospitals decide where they buy their food from, but we are encouraging them to adopt the government's buying standards for food."
However, James Varghese, Catering Manager at Royal Brompton NHS Hospital in London, said catering using high welfare animal products can be achieved without exuberance. He said, “The Royal Brompton uses approximately 75,000 free range eggs per year. The price is very competitive and well within our budget constraints. All our sausages and cooked ham joints are from farms in Essex which operate to very high standards of animal welfare.
“Every NHS trust spends hard-earned taxpayers’ money and we want to make sure we are giving patients, staff and relatives food that is both nutritious and which meets high standards of animal welfare.”
In its Nil by Mouth reports Animal Rights group Animal Aid said hospitals should provide more vegetarian and vegan meals in hospitals, after one third of vegetarian respondents to a survey said they had found it difficult to get suitable food in hospital. More vegetarian meals would help ease pressure to provide high welfare meat and animal products in hospitals.