A review by NSW Health into the NSW Nutrition Standards has been recommended to be more inclusive of vegans. The Nutrition Standards are used to provide appropriate food to patients in NSW Health facilities.
In a submission to the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation, Vegan Australia has given a list of suggestions to improve the Standards to make them more applicable to to the needs of vegan patients.
Read the excerpts from the submission below.
Q: The revised Standards include statements under 'menu planning and design' about offering plant-based / vegetarian choices and considering the cultural diversity of the inpatient population.
A: Here at Vegan Australia, we often hear of complaints about the lack of vegan options in a number of contexts, including health facilities. We support the rights of vegans to receive meals consistent with their beliefs. These rights are protected by international law as can be seen in the article What rights do vegans have? by The Vegan Society.
Q: The revised Standards now make a general reference to fortification of foods as an overarching principle, and specific reference to fortification with energy, protein, calcium and vitamin D.
A: Fortification with vitamin B12 should be included in plant-based milks and other vegan foods.
Q: In the nutrient goals, the revised Standards now have nutrient guidance statements about carbohydrates, vitamin D for adults and mental health inpatients, and vitamin B12 for paediatric inpatients.
A: There should be guidance on vitamin B12 for vegans. We support the statement "It's recommended that vegans take a B12 supplement" from the Dietitians Australia page linked to from the draft Nutrition Standards.
Q: The original Standards contained 'test menus'. These have been updated in the revised Standards, and also repositioned under the heading of 'Standards Validation' with new explanatory introduction about what test menus are for and how they are used.
A: There should be demonstration meal selections for vegan diets. Vitamin B12 should be included in the nutrient analysis.
Q: Are there any other improvements or strengths of the revised Standards that you haven't mentioned yet?
A: We note that the revised Standards contains the statement "Future goal is to move towards a minimum of 1 vegetarian main meal option per day as part of the main meal options." Vegan Australia would like this to be implemented as soon as possible, preferably in the current revision. We also recommend that the word "vegetarian" be replaced with "vegan".
We appreciate that the revised Standards recommend that soy milk non dairy milk alternatives be available. This should be extended to cover all vegan dairy alternatives, including cheese and yogurt.
Q: Are there any other issues or problems with the revised Standards, that you haven't mentioned yet?
A: To increase the variety of vegan dishes, we suggest that all menu items labelled 'vegetarian' in the standard be made vegan. This can usually be done by replacing cheese and eggs with functional substitutes. This should also increase the variety of kosher and halal dishes. For example there are a number of vegan "Macaroni and cheese" recipes available online.
We recommend that non dairy milks be the default milk offered. Only a minority of the world's adult population can properly digest cow's milk. In people of Australian Aboriginal or East Asian descent, less than 30 percent are able to digest cow's milk. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.
We strongly recommend that processed meats, such as ham and bacon, be removed from the revised Standards and they should explicitly state that processed meats should not be included in menus. The World Health Organisation has declared that processed meat is "carcinogenic to humans" and "eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer". It may also cause cancers of the oesophagus, lung, stomach and prostate. For references see the article Cancer warning labels for bacon, ham.