The majority of hospitals in the UK need to "raise their game" on the food offering in their canteens as the current situation is "farcical", Which? has warned.
The consumer rights group, which released a damning report on the standard of catering for patients last December, sent dieticians to test catering facilities at 21 hospitals across the UK.
In 18 of the 21 hospitals checked, 86% of meals contained too much salt; 67% too much saturated fat and more than half (52%) contained too much fat, tested against Food Standard Agency (FSA) guidelines.
Nikki Ratcliff, head of services research at Which?, said: "Hospitals have a responsibility to serve and promote healthy food, so the situation at the moment is farcical. Although we did find some examples of good practice, most hospitals we visited really need to raise their game."
David Williamson, national treasurer of the Hospital Caterers Association, insisted that the problem was not being ignored.
Williamson said his own hospital board, NHS Fife, where he is support services manager, was aiming for the HealthyLiving Award run by the Scottish Consumer Council and was far from unique.
"We are working to stringent targets to keep fat, salt and sugar to a minimum and to make fresh fruit and vegetables clearly available," said Williamson.
At the start of the year, the FSA signed up the UK's five largest contract caterers to work with it to improve the availability of healthy food options in the workplace.
The NHS employees 1.5 million staff and serves 300 million meals a year.
By Chris Druce
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