The Irresponsible Poor Nutrition Quality of Hospital Food

Last Updated on January 1, 2022 by Shaun Snapp

Executive Summary

  • The medical system massively dismisses the importance of nutrition to health.
  • This extends to the poor nutrition offered in hospital food.

Introduction

During the covid pandemic, it was curious how little the medical establishment discussed nutrition and supplementation, even though several vitamins and minerals are highly effective against covid, as there is the widespread nutrient deficiency in the population. While investigating this topic, I ran into the related issue of the poor quality of food served in hospitals.

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Denying Patients Nutritious Foods

Hospitals and the health authorities are utterly opposed to anything that will help improve the patient’s immune system.

This extends to their advice on supplementation, which is that one can obtain all of one’s nutrients from a “balanced diet,” to even serving patients food with low nutrient quality.

The low nutrient quality of hospital food has been known for many decades, and nothing has been done about it.

This is explained in the following quotations.

How the Poor Nutrient Quality of Foods Has Been Known For Decades

Malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies are widespread in the population of most developed countries. And yet, hospitals do little to try to address this in the food their offer to patients as is explained in the following quotation.

Hospital malnutrition affects 30-50% of patients worldwide, according to a September 2019 study published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. “Often patients enter the hospital malnourished or at risk of malnutrition and experience nutrition decline during their stay, placing them at higher risk for adverse outcomes following hospital discharge,” the study says.

And while the issue of malnutrition in hospitals has been a concern in the United States since the 1970s, it hasn’t been studied widely enough to make formal recommendations. But according to the researchers, approximately 1 in 3 patients in the U.S. are at risk of malnutrition.

An increased risk of malnutrition “often leads to poorer outcomes for both the patient and the healthcare system,” states the study, concluding that “patients who have diminished meal intake experience increased mortality risk.” – Huffington Post 

How the Fast Food is Prevalent in Hospitals

It is a bit amazing that one would find fast food in hospitals, given the well-established association between fast food and health problems. Fast food companies are known for selling denitrified food. However, this is now common in US hospitals.

Hospitals are a place where people go to get healthy, but the same can’t be said about all hospital cafeterias, according to a recent study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

The study analyzed food served to patients, staff, and visitors at U.S. hospitals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and found that some hospitals housed as many as five fast-food outlets and featured menus that were dominated by foods high in fat, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. For hospitalists, many of whom spend 50, 70, and even 90 hours per week in the hospital, the lack of healthy eating options can be especially problematic. – The Hosptialist

And a review of contracts indicates that the hospitals are incentivized to maximize food sales for fast food companies.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine used state open records laws to obtain patient menus from 24 hospitals. They also obtained a contract between Chik-Fil-A and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a contract between McDonalds and Broward General Medical Center, and a heavily redacted Wendy’s contract from Wexner Medical Center in Ohio (PCRM, personal communications). Want a taste of the language? The contract between Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and McDonalds has a percentage rent so that the more burgers sold, the more money the medical center makes. The contract between the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Chik-Fil-A asks that the hospital “make every effort to increase the sales and business and maximize Gross Receipts.” The menu includes nuggets and biscuits with bacon/sausage/egg/cheese. I bet you do not see that on billboards promoting the medical center. – Huffington Post

How Poor Quality Food is Justified and Normalized by the Hosptial Staff

Hospitals are a place where people go to get healthy, but the same can’t be said about all hospital cafeterias, according to a recent study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

The study analyzed food served to patients, staff, and visitors at U.S. hospitals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and found that some hospitals housed as many as five fast-food outlets and featured menus that were dominated by foods high in fat, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. For hospitalists, many of whom spend 50, 70, and even 90 hours per week in the hospital, the lack of healthy eating options can be especially problematic.

When a couple of the hospital’s dieticians were confronted about Freedhoff’s photo of hospital food, they told him that “if our hospital offered something like an organic kale salad with a side of quinoa to some of our patients in the ER, there would be massive rioting.”

Freedhoff’s tweet illustrates a huge contradiction: People are admitted to hospitals to recover from sickness. To recover from sickness, a healthy diet must be maintained. And scores of hospitals offer nothing in the way of good diets. So what are patients to do? – ATTN

And this one.

When a couple of the hospital’s dieticians were confronted about Freedhoff’s photo of hospital food, they told him that “if our hospital offered something like an organic kale salad with a side of quinoa to some of our patients in the ER, there would be massive rioting.”

Freedhoff’s tweet illustrates a huge contradiction: People are admitted to hospitals to recover from sickness. To recover from sickness, a healthy diet must be maintained. And scores of hospitals offer nothing in the way of good diets. So what are patients to do? Hospitals are serving horrible food. Doctors and patients are eating horrible food. Most importantly, most providers of health care are not being educated about food. So how can we change this perpetuating cycle of poor eating? – The Dallas Morning News

Are Some of the Bad Food Deliberate Cost Cutting?

The food in US schools and prisons has been dramatically degraded. Many US prisoners have difficulty getting enough calories from the food served to them. They must “hustle” to obtain food to supplement their caloric intake, which explains why calorically dense foods like Top Ramen are worth so much more in US prisons than they are worth outside of prison.

The following quotes explain some of the cost-cutting logic to bad quality hospital food.

Cost Cutting #1: The Lack of Concern for Good Quality During Food Procurement

But have you ever seen a catering contract? Any “standards” (and the panel’s are hopelessly weak) will be buried in pages of small print that hospital administrators will be too busy to look at once signed. They seldom say much about food anyway, concentrating more on pricing, delivery, and who pays for what investment. – The Guardian

Cost Cutting #2: Outsourcing of Food to Catering Companies = No Cooking

Under the iniquitous PFI scheme, however, many hospitals entered into long-term deals with caterers, which they now can’t get out of. The result is that few hospital kitchens are actually cooking any food. All the kitchen staff now do is reheat frozen meals and add the inevitable difficult-to-undo packages: of cutlery, sweaty squares of cheese, cheap biscuits, dabs of marge. The meals themselves are made miles away in a factory from the cheapest available ingredients, delivered frozen, regenerated in the hospital and kept warm in a trolley. No wonder it’s disgusting.

You can’t blame the caterers. In return for 15- or sometimes 25-year contracts, they may have funded factory units to prepare these horrible meals. Often they have borne the cost of converting hospital basements from old-fashioned kitchens to stations for the regeneration of processed food and the assembly of food trays. – The Guardian

I would disagree with the statement that one cannot blame the caterers. And this is because outsourced food contracts are setup to provide low-quality food. Outsourced catering or food contracts are commonly set up to offer degraded food as part of their business model. Whenever any entity outsources its food creation to an outsourced firm, the quality normally declines. And this is a universal feature of these types of contracts, it is not an issue isolated to hospitals.

The evidence for outsourced food service is clear, yet hospitals, prisons, schools, and other institutions keep outsourcing their food with predictable results. At this point, it is impossible for these institutions to claim that they don’t know the outcome of such outsourced contracts.

The following is one company that continually provides horrible food and even unsafe food.

For our first profile, CMD focuses on Sodexo, a multinational company based in France that provides food services to schools, college campuses, the U.S. military, and other government entities across the United States. With about $8.8 billion in annual revenues from operations in North America, Sodexo is a primary driver of the privatization and outsourcing of food services in America. But Sodexo has taken the low road to profitability.

In 2010, Sodexo was caught fomenting a race to the bottom in food service, by choosing food suppliers based not on quality but based on which supplier could give them the highest cash rebate for the contract. Sodexo’s unethical business practices ensure that low quality foods are the norm. – Truthout

After what is known about Sodexo, and many food contracting firms just like, them, why do hospitals continue to use them? Hospitals at this point cannot plead ignorance.

Cost Cutting #3: The Lack of Concern for Good Quality During Food Procurement

This topic becomes apparent as soon as one does any reading on the subject. This is explained in the following quotation.

The current food culture in hospitals is built to “feed as many people as possible for as little as possible,” Cool said. They either buy food in bulk, the same way they order medical supplies and hospital gowns, or else they outsource their kitchens to large-scale providers like Sodexo and Aramark. The bias is toward food that ships easily, never spoils, and can be prepared with a minimum of staff and skill. In other words, TV dinners. – Healthway

This is always a problem no matter where this philosophy is applied. However, in the case of hospitals, it undermines the ability of patients to recover from their procedures.

The quote continues…

The current food culture in hospitals is built to “feed as many people as possible for as little as possible,” Cool said. They either buy food in bulk, the same way they order medical supplies and hospital gowns, or else they outsource their kitchens to large-scale providers like Sodexo and Aramark. The bias is toward food that ships easily, never spoils, and can be prepared with a minimum of staff and skill. In other words, TV dinners. – Healthway

The cost-cutting procedures at hospitals are constant. However, when you see a hospital bill, it normally requires taking a seat. It is peculiar how aggressive hospitals are in cutting costs, going so far as to select masks from China at 1 cent per mask rather than pay 5 cents per mask for US manufacturers — but how health care costs continue to spiral upwards.

The quote continues…

Both favor frozen foods that can quickly be reconstituted with predictable results. It doesn’t seem to matter that those results are, more often than not, bland and heavily laced with salt.

“There’s no communication between dietary and pharmacy, and that can be a problem when you’re on certain meds,” Levine said. “I’ve had patients on drugs for hypertension or heart failure (which raises potassium levels), and the hospital is delivering (potassium-rich) bananas and orange juice. Then their potassium goes sky high, and I have to stop the meds.” – Healthway

Just this fact alone indicates that the cost savings from the poor quality food are likely overcome by the costs of interfering with the recovery of patients. However, if a patient is made ill due to an interaction between the food they are served and their condition, that only increases the revenues of the hospital.

The quote continues…

“The worst part of my job is heading out to the wards with the trolley,” the NHS chef said. “I don’t want to make eye contact with the patients. If I hear someone ask, ‘Who cooked that?’ I put my head down and run past. It’s mortifying.”

Essentially, hospital insiders don’t think that the food will change without a massive top-down commitment from management, and, in many countries, even from the government. – Healthway

These types of quotes are amazing. The food is terrible, and nothing is done about it. The hospital procurement continues to procure the same type of food decade after decade. And the hospital staff seeks to avoid talking about the subject with patients.

Cost Cutting #4: Trying to Dissuade People From Eating Hospital Food

And if the patients won’t order from the menu, and their relatives buy junk from the hospital shop for them instead, the hospital gains twice: once from saving on that hospital meal, once from its share of the profits from the shop. – The Guardian

Conclusion

Hospitals do not see food quality and nutrients as essential to patients’ health. There is no coordination between the needs of the patients and the foodservice contracts that are most often outsourced to companies that could not care less about food quality or nutrients and are trying to maximize their profits and often obtain their contracts through corrupt means.

It is bizarre given what is known about the importance of nutrients in supporting immune system function, and there is also a widespread nutrient deficiency in the population that are directly related to nutrients that support the immune system, as I cover in the article The Reality But Ignored Topic of Widespread Nutrient Deficiency.

This lack of focus on food and nutrition is another example of hospitals and the medical establishment not looking out for the health of their patients.