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'Curbs needed on hospital vending machines'
[Posted: Tue 05/03/2013 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Patient organisations have urged hospitals to curb the use of vending machines selling junk food.
Diabetes Ireland says having machines selling sugary drinks and fatty foods in outpatient waiting areas is no longer appropriate, and healthier options need to be provided.
The Irish Heart Foundation said it was 'absolutely imperative' that the HSE looks into curbing the use of junk food and sugary drinks vending machines in hospitals.
The call comes after it was revealed yesterday that the HSE is ordering in masses of highly processed junk food for inpatient meals.
However, it is not only inpatients, but patients attending outpatient clinics who are exposed to junk food, according to patient groups. Many of these patients can be attending with diabetes and heart conditions.
Dr Anna Clarke of Diabetes Ireland said having vending machines with sugary fizzy drinks, chocolate and crisps in hospital waiting areas, or indeed in any setting, was no longer appropriate.
"Our position is there should be healthy options, eg fruit and water, available in hospitals at all times. It would be better if these options were made available in coffee shops or on snack trolleys in hospitals."
Dr Clarke said while people who may be travelling long distances to hospitals may need sustenance while waiting to be seen at clinics and may need to avail of whatever snack facilities were available, this need would be reduced if people were seen more quickly in hospitals and all patients did not receive the one appointment time.
Maureen Mulvihill of the Irish Heart Foundation told irishhealth.com there was an 'absolute imperative' that the HSE look at this area, not just in terms of food provision, but also food advertising, especially for children.
"The HSE should be leading the way in terms of good practice, just as they have done with tobacco control and smoke-free hospitals. It is shocking and disappointing that the there appears to be no policy in place at this stage to guide hospitals and HSE institutions on this (junk food) issue."
She said she believed, however, that some policy in this area was being planned.
The Heart Foundation pointed out that it had been campaigning since 2005 to get hospitals to look at a policy to restrict sales and advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt in vending machines.
The HSE admitted there was no national policy in place in relation to vending machines and arrangements would vary from hospital to hospital.
The Irish Independent revealed yesterday that tender documents for bulk food orders show that hospital inpatients are being fed a diet of chips, batter sausages, frozen pizzas and pre-prepared scrambled eggs, among other highly processed foods.
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