Should hospitals ban junk food? Bloomberg thinks so

Initiative pushes hospitals to ditch deep fryers, unhealthy snacks

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday urged public and private hospitals throughout the city to ban sugary and fatty foods and beverages.

Specifically, Bloomberg is asking more private hospitals to participate in his Healthy Hospital Food Initiative, which is mandatory for all public hospitals.

Hospitals participating in the initiative—which is similar to hospital food initiatives in other cities—must follow the New York City Food Standards, a set of evidence-based nutrition measures that aim to improve access to healthy foods for workers, visitors, and patients.

The standards cover food and beverages available through hospital cafeterias, vending machines, and in-room patient meals. Among other things, participating hospitals must:

  • Ban deep fryers;
  • Make green salads a mandatory meal option;
  • Mandate that half of all sandwiches and salads will be served with whole grains; and
  • Allow for only healthy snacks throughout the hospital.

"If there's any place that should not allow smoking, or try to make you eat healthy, you would think it'd be the hospitals," Bloomberg said at a press conference on Monday.

So far, sixteen private hospitals have voluntarily agreed to participate in the initiative.  

In addition, the Associated Press notes that many city hospitals already have changed their vending machine offerings in recent years. For example, Montefiore Medical Center—which operates several hospitals in the Bronx—stopped serving ice cream and switched from white rice to brown rice years ago, according to CMO Andrew Racine.

Bloomberg's call for participants in the hospital program comes less than two weeks after the New York City Board of Health approved a ban on the sale of large sugary beverages in restaurants and convenience stores (Barr, AP/Boston Globe, 9/25; NYC Health Hospital Food Initiative factsheet, accessed 9/25; NY1 News, 9/24).

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