HEALTH bosses have rowed back on claims that only fresh burgers are served to patients in our public hospitals.
And the sick and elderly will be forced to eat 'meat' pies containing as little as 10pc meat and costing just seven cents each over the coming years, the Irish Independent has learnt.
Further details about an annual spend of €960,000 on frozen, processed foods by the Health Service Executive (HSE) have emerged with bosses now admitting that patients in hospitals are fed frozen burgers.
This comes just three weeks after it insisted only homemade burgers were served.
However, tender documents show that 10,500 burgers were ordered from three suppliers at a total cost of €4,800.
Almost half were sourced from a Co Monaghan supplier, Rangeland, which was forced last month to withdraw some products which were contaminated by horse meat.
The HSE insisted its burgers were not affected, but admitted that frozen foods were served.
"A small number of frozen burgers were purchased in previous years," the HSE said in a statement. "These may have been served to HSE staff and visitors in canteens, and in a small number of cases to patients.
"The queries received at the time (of the Rangeland controversy) related to what food the HSE served to patients in hospitals. Patients are not generally served frozen burgers . . . the majority of burgers served in HSE services are made in-house."
The statement is in sharp contrast to that sent to media on February 14, when the Rangeland controversy broke.
Then, the HSE said: "HSE hospitals implement the 'Healthy Heart' initiative and as part of this any burgers that are served are homemade by catering staff. Processed burgers are not used."
Rangeland has confirmed it did not directly supply burgers to the HSE, but a spokesperson said they may have been sourced from a distributor either based in Ireland or abroad. The HSE refused to name its supplier.
The Irish Independent last week revealed the sick and elderly in more than 100 public hospitals and nursing homes were being offered highly processed foods.
New details of the foods being sought show the HSE plans to spend €360 on almost 5,200 pies containing as little as 10pc meat – at an average cost of less than seven cents each.
Head of the HSE, Tony O'Brien, last week rejected claims that patients were being served junk food, saying most of its annual €32m spend on food was on fresh produce. The remaining 7pc was spent on frozen food products. The HSE said: "Four per cent of this would include products such as ice-cream, poultry and frozen vegetables. The remaining estimated 3pc (€960,000) refers to processed food which includes pizza, sausage rolls, burgers etc."