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MP calls for better care home meals

20 January 2006

Care home meals need a radical overhaul, according to a Liberal Democrat MP, who has tabled a private member's bill slamming the standard of food they serve.

Paul Burstow, who represents Sutton and Cheam, called on the Government to introduce minimum nutritional standards for all homes and tougher regulation via the Food Standards Agency.

In a statement, Burstow said: "It's not just schoolchildren who deserve to have access to nutritious food. The minimum standards for care-home catering say nothing about the nutritional content of meals."

Last year, nearly one in five care homes inspected in England failed to meet minimum standards (2,097 of the 11,298). The regulations currently ensure residents get three meals a day with enough time and assistance to eat.

"I think we need Jamie Oliver to do to our care homes what he's done for our schools," said Burstow.

TV chef and care home meals campaigner Paul Rankin believes it won't be easy. "We don't know how big the problem is. Many residents are scared of complaining and I can't see an obvious way to make a huge difference," he said. "Only the exposé approach seems to work."

Sue Hawkins, chairman of the National Association of Care Catering, agreed that nutritional standards were needed. She added that it was hard to accurately assess homes under the current "pass or fail" system.

"One home narrowly failed to meet the standards because it didn't serve baked beans on a Sunday," she claimed.

Shaun Hill, former chef-patron of the Merchant House in Ludlow, Shropshire, who worked on the Better Hospital Food programme, said an independent guide would help. "It can be difficult to sort the good from the bad. Some sort of Egon Ronay guide may not be as absurd as it first seems," he added.

By Tom Bill

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