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62,000 sausage rolls and 90 tonnes of chips fine for hospitals - nutritionist

A leading nutritionist has said patients shouldn't be worried about hospital food with 62,000 sausage rolls and 90 tonnes of frozen chips on menus until 2017.

"Healthy food is for healthy people," Sarah Keogh, a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute told the Herald.

"Patients who are recovering from a surgery or from a bad accident need high-calorie food that we would normally consider bad for us," she explained.


"It doesn't sound very healthy because often when people are looking at hospital food they are applying healthy eating guidelines.

"They often forget that people in hospital often need a lot more calories and a lot more protein than the average person who is out and about," she said.

The HSE had ordered 62,000 sausage rolls and 90 tonnes of frozen chips to be served to patients between 2013 and 2017.

The revelations caused many to criticise the health service because the food was in direct contradiction with the healthy eating guidelines issued by the Department of Health.

But patients who are in recovery often see a rise in metabolism at a time when their appetite declines, Ms Keogh said.

High calorie food can help patients with healing and recovery she added.

"I wouldn't be too horrified about sausage rolls and chips.

"What is of a bigger concern is that dietitians actually have very little input into menus in many Irish hospitals."

Hospital menus need to be designed with greater care given to goals of particular types of patients she commented but pointed out that due to budget constraints this is not always possible.

"Malnutrition in hospitals has been shown to cost the State over €1bn.

"There needs to be more attention paid to whether people are getting to eat the food provided," the nutritionist explained.


The HSE last night said: "The patient's needs are paramount in the provision of all hospital services. Hospital menus are planned by trained personnel in each hospital in order to meet nutritional standard."

The average cost of a hospital meal is between €8 and €9.