Published on 20 October 2017

Calorie limit introduced on snacks in bid to improve health of patients, their visitors and hospital staff.

The NHS has introduced measures to reduce health risks to patients, visitors and staff at hospitals by taking snacks high in sugar off the menu.

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens has announced a 250 calorie limit on confectionary sold in hospital canteens, shops, vending machines and other outlets.

It is hoped that the plans will help to reduce health complications related to an unhealthy diet, including type 2 diabetes, obesity and tooth-decay.

Hospitals have been ordered to take super-size chocolate bars and “grab bags” of sugary snacks off of the shelves in the latest step of the NHS plan

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, said: “The NHS is now stepping up action to combat the “super-size” snack culture which is causing an epidemic of obesity, preventable diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer.

“In place of calorie-laden, sugary snacks we want to make healthier food an easy option for hospital staff, patients and visitors.”

The imposed calorie limit amounts to an eighth of a woman’s and a tenth of a man’s recommended daily intake.

Hospitals chiefs face losing out on funding ring-fenced for improving the health of staff, patients and their visitors if they do not ensure that four out of five items purchased on their premises go over this limit.

Unhealthy snacks, including sandwiches and drinks, are also being targeted as the NHS, Europe’s largest employer, challenges the availability of harmful food and drinks that are responsible for an “obesity crisis”.

A packet of crisps.

Sugary drinks and foods high in fat, sugar or salt will no longer be on special offer and sales will be stopped at checkouts. In addition, advertisements of these foods on NHS premises will be prevented. Hospitals will be expected to offer healthy food options at all times, including for people working night shifts.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Hospitals have an important role in addressing obesity – not just treating those suffering the consequences, but helping to prevent it in the first place. Any plans to offer healthier food are a positive step towards tackling the country’s obesity problem.”

Andrew Roberts, Business Enterprise Manager for Royal Voluntary Service added: “Our shops, cafes and on-ward trolley services in England and Wales meet the current CQUIN requirements and we welcome the decision of NHS England to put these new measurements in place.

“We took an early lead on the NHS workforce healthy agenda by introducing our Healthier Choices programme and it is already having a significant effect on consumer behaviour.  In the first quarter of 2017, year on year sales of fruit increased by 25%, healthier chilled snacks like salad and sushi by 55% and healthier sweet and savoury snacks like popcorn and dried fruit by 109%.

“We will be implementing these new guidelines and are hopeful that they will result in healthier food being a more consistent feature in all Hospital retailers.”

The latest cut-down on high sugar products in hospitals follows leading retailers in hospitals across the country agreeing to voluntarily reduce sales of sugary drinks to 10% or less of their total drinks sales within hospitals, announced by NHS England earlier this year.

Additional measures to be introduced over 2018/19, include funding being made available to

health services if they make sure that 80% of confectionery and sweets stocked do not exceed 250 kcal; 75% of pre-packed sandwiches and other savoury pre-packed meals to contain 400 kcal or less per serving and do not exceed five grams of saturated fat per 100g; and 80% of drinks line stocked must have less than 5g of added sugar per 100ml.

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