Health and Nutrition in the Public Sector Report launched
30/11/2012 - 15:11

In an executive statement released to go with the report the PS100 group said much is made by Government of the need for consumers to eat better in order to reduce obesity levels and malnutrition; but are they ‘practicing what they preach’?

The recent changes in school governance and control has seen the removal of nutrition standards from schools, particularly academies, potentially wasting five or more years of improvements in what the state feeds its most vulnerable citizens.  

However, all this change has done is help to unmask the inadequate controls that exist, wherever the public purse funds or supports the feeding of the nation.  There are no minimum standards expected and monitored in hospitals, care homes, prisons, further education establishments, emergency services or schools.

Successive governments have had a clear ‘do as we say not as we do strategy’.

This report shows the health, social and economic cost of poor diet in the UK. It will make clear how making the right investment now could stand to save taxpayers many times more in reduced NHS spending and business costs in future, not to mention the huge social benefits that will flow from a healthier population.

What is PS100?
The brainchild of Cost Sector Catering magazine, the PS100 group comprises public sector catering operators, dietitians, health experts, contract caterers and suppliers who all have a responsibility for the diet and welfare of people where government spending or standards apply.

This includes children at school, students in further and higher education, patients in hospital, residents in care homes, recipients of community meals, prisoners and young offenders, members of the UK military and staff working in the public sector, such as the police and fire services.

The PS100 group wants joined-up thinking in public sector catering so that the government’s aims to reduce obesity and health-related problems such as type-2 diabetes are matched by actions to promote good nutrition and healthy eating.

You can find out more by visiting the PS100 section of the Cost Sector Catering website:

Summary Conclusions
The government is clear about the size of the health problem facing the UK in years to come. We’re getting fatter and unhealthier and it is going to cost more to treat the health consequences and to deal with the impact of ill health on Britain’s businesses.

But while research shows the health cost figure of dealing with this could be as much as £43bn by 2050 – which doesn’t even include the wider cost to industry of reduced productivity and absenteeism – there is the fact that the government also has significant influence over the issue.

In 2011 the public sector served 2.94bn meals, 1.4bn of these were in education, the largest number of meals served in any sector of the hospitality industry (see graph 1).  Serving these meals to basic nutritional standards must improve the health of the nation and will most certainly improve understanding by the consumer of the kind of meal required to be healthy and nutritious.

Obesity is the biggest threat to the NHS and potentially to Public Health generally over the next 40 years.  Yet, the consumer is quite often gloriously unaware of the impact that a poor diet, obesity and malnutrition can have on them:

Health Issue Consumer Awareness
(% of consumers unaware)
Link between poor nutritional intake & obesity 17.0%
Link between poor nutritional intake & diabetes 26.2%
Link between poor nutritional intake & malnutrition 26.2%
Link between poor nutritional intake & osteoporosis 44.4%
Link between poor nutritional intake & gut health problems 33.4%
Link between poor nutritional intake & cognitive development 46.3%
Link between poor nutritional intake & hypertension 46.6%

Moreover, the governments legislative role gives it the power to lay down minimum standards for meal times, such as how long the lunch break lasts in schools or protection from interruption for patients at hospital mealtimes.

In 2011 the Government’s public spending amounted to £681.3bn, of which about £2bn goes on food and drink in the public sector.

This research document produced by Canadean Consumer Research shows the significant cost of not improving diet.

It says type-2 diabetes – seen as the next health ‘time-bomb’ – can have a clear effect on people from an early age. And the current cost to the NHS of treating people for diabetes will rise by 2020 in correlation with rising diabetes projections.

The cost to the NHS of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and liver failure, for instance, is likely to be immense based on current projections. There is clearly a benefit to the Exchequer and to society of encouraging healthy eating habits at school and using whatever influence is available through the workplace.

Absenteeism as a result of conditions that have a direct link with poor diet, such as obesity, diabetes and hyper-tension, as well as susceptibility to colds or flu have an impact in lost working days reflected in both the public and private sector.

The research into the issue of lost productivity related to absenteeism  makes the link between poor nutrition and falling behind during education, which can reduce a person’s chances of going on to reaching further education or university.

It points out that there is a clear correlation between a person’s level of education and their income, and that better-educated people tend to be healthier and pay more tax.

In prisons, where the Government has maximum control over the quality of meals, nutrition and health, taking the right action holds the potential reward not only of potentially reduced medical spending but also of improved prisoner behaviour through a better diet.

In hospitals, the research points to clear benefits because better-fed patients mean a reduced number of days in hospital as a result of faster recovery rates.

And the number of days that people in care homes need to spend in hospital each year because of poor nutrition will also be cut if steps are put in place to improve the quality of food and the overall eating experience.

The research also highlights an alarming lack of awareness among consumers of what exactly good nutrition is and the health problems that can be caused by poor diet.