Steak, ice cream and curry on prisoners' €7.8m menu
The Irish Prison Service spent €7.8m to provide red Thai chicken curries, beef stews, ice cream, steak and other foods for its 4,000- strong prison population last year.
According to new figures provided by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, the food budget to the Irish Prison Service (IPS) last year was €7.8m - down €969,000 on the €8.76m budget in 2015.
In the figures provided, the IPS food bill between 2011 and 2016 totals €51.5m, with the highest budget allocation in 2013 and 2012 when €9m was allocated each year.
The €7.8m in 2016 represented the lowest budget over the six years.
The IPS operates a 28-day rolling menu cycle which was reviewed and updated in November 2015.
The current rolling menu was introduced after the Department of Justice paid a firm, Calista Nutrition, €2,735 to review the menu.
In reviewing the menu for the IPS, dietician and nutritionist Margaret Donnelly of Calista stated the menu "has been adapted to meet the dietary needs of those requiring a diabetic diet, gluten-free diet and those who require a non-spicy diet".
Ms Donnelly stated: "Bearing in mind that the aim of the IPS is to provide a healthy balanced diet for persons in custody, some modifications of the tea menu will be recommended.
"These modifications should reflect lower fat and salt intakes."
In a written Dáil response to Independent TD Tommy Broughan, Ms Fitzgerald said: "The menu provides a wide variety of wholesome and nutritious food and drink each day, properly prepared and well presented. All prisoners, in particular those with medical needs, are encouraged to make healthy choices from the menu."