The Hospital Caterers Association says it wants to see “key failings in the current cold food chain audit process” addressed following the recent listeria outbreak.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, called for a ‘root and branch’ review of hospital food earlier this month after five people were suspected to have died after eating pre-packed sandwiches and salads at NHS hospitals, with the HCA “resolutely” welcoming the suggestion.
Following the announcement, HCA spokesman, Stewart Mckenzie, appeared on national TV and radio to call for caterers to help lead the inquiry and raise critical questions around food chain safety.
Last week, during parliamentary questions, Mr Hancock advised parliament the government would be working with the HCA to ‘build progress in three vital areas, including eliminating junk food from hospitals, improving nutrition and ensuring healthier choices are available across the NHS.
“The Hospital Caterers Association warmly welcomes this inclusion and very much looks forward to addressing what we see as key failings in the current cold food chain audit process,” it said in a statement.
“We would further like to echo the Health Secretary’s comments that there should be “severe consequences” if any evidence of wrongdoing by suppliers is found and call upon all hospital food suppliers to urgently review their current testing and safety procedures.
“As a voluntary organisation as old as the NHS itself, and with more than 600 members, our goal is to promote, develop and improve standards in hospital catering. Therefore, the association would not only like the inquiry to review external supply chain processes but also to include a review of current systems within hospitals at ward level.”
The HCA has produced several documents to support hospital caterers including a Good Practise Guide.
In the meantime, it has urged all caterers and ward staff to remind hospital visitors that they must not bring on to the wards takeaways, cooked rice, cooked meats, meat products, fish products and shell eggs.
“Hospitals have removed many high-risk items from the patient menu such as soft cheese and pate, but continual removal of ingredients will have a negative impact on patient choice. As an association we would rather ensure that patient food is safe and nutritious whilst offering a balance of choices. We believe if you have best-in-class supply chain safety and robust audit processes, combined with well-trained staff at ward level, a safe and nutritious patient dining experience can be delivered.”