Call for ban on junk food in hospitals

The BMA has called for a ban on foods such as crisps in hospitals. Picture: Colin Hattersley
The BMA has called for a ban on foods such as crisps in hospitals. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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JUNK food should be banned from hospitals in a bid to tackle the nation’s obesity epidemic, doctors warned today.

The British Medical Association conference in Edinburgh was due to hear calls for sugary and fatty products, such as crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks, to become a thing of the past on NHS premises so the health service can lead by example.

The call comes after figures in Scotland last week showed the number of Scots dying from obesity has increased significantly in recent years.

The Scottish Government statistics showed obesity was mentioned on the death certificates of 212 people in 2011, compared with 181 in 2007.

Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra has tabled a motion at the BMA’s annual meeting calling for an end to the sale of “junk food” so that patients are not encouraged to make unhealthy choices.

The medic said it was an important part of getting the profession’s “own house in order” in an attempt to stem the growing problem of obesity across the UK.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the doctor said NHS sites were not the location for mixed messages on diet.

Dr Malhotra said: “An oversupply of nutritionally poor and energy-dense foods loaded with sugar, salt and trans-fats, fuelled by aggressive and irresponsible marketing by the junk food industry, has even been allowed to hijack the very institutions that are supposed to set an example and promote positive health messages – our hospitals.”

The BMA conference was also due to hear calls for the organisation to lobby governments to make sure that where sugary and fatty drinks are on sale on NHS premises, they come with clear health warnings.

Earlier this year, the 
Academy of Medical Royal Colleges launched a campaign to make nutritional standards mandatory in hospitals, as they are in schools and prisons.

Professor Terence Stephenson, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said: “If the NHS is to send out a message that it takes the obesity crisis seriously, it cannot recreate the same unhealthy environment inside hospitals as exists on the high street.”

Dr Charles Saunders, deputy chairman of the BMA’s 
Scottish Council, said: “People go into hospital to get better, so it is imperative that the food they receive there is healthy and nutritious. There is no place for junk food on hospital menus or other outlets within hospitals.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have written to all NHS boards asking them to ensure healthier options are available from vending machines, by removing soft drinks with a high sugar content and positioning healthier choices more prominently.”