A NEW report published today has highlighted the “disgraceful” animal welfare standards of food being served to hospital patients.

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The RSPCA said nine out of 10 eggs served by hospitals in the east of England are laid by hens kept in cages, while just 13% of chicken and 38% of pork used comes from animals reared in conditions that meet its welfare standards.

The survey shows the animal welfare standard of hospital food is a “postcode lottery”.

Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust and Mid Essex Hospital Services Trust failed to provide any eggs, chicken or pork that comes from animals reared in conditions that meet RSPCA welfare standards, the survey claimed.

Figures for Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust were unavailable, while 100% of pork used by the Bury St Edmunds-based West Suffolk Hospital Foundation Trust meets the Freedom Food standard, where all aspects of the production process meet strict RSPCA guidelines.

However, its eggs all come from caged hens and none of the chicken it uses comes from birds reared in conditions that meet the charity’s standards.

The RSPCA and Campaign for Better Hospital Food, who published the survey, now want the Government to introduce mandatory minimum standards for hospital food.

David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: “It is strange that just when you are at your weakest, you are served food that may not be to your taste and can be from animals kept under intensive conditions.

“Even hospitals serving food made from free- range eggs in their coffee shops and cafeterias are still delivering food made with cage eggs to patients. We support the idea of having standards for hospital food.”

Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: “It’s disgraceful for the taxpayer to pay for hospital food which causes misery to animals.

“The Government must introduce mandatory higher animal welfare standards for all hospital food in England to improve its quality and taste, and guarantee that it is produced from animals living happy lives”.

The survey results show that the animal welfare standard of hospital food is lower than those demanded by shoppers in British supermarkets. Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S and the Co-operative have banned cage eggs altogether.

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