Dunedin hospital food passes the Coleman Taste Test


Jonathan Coleman went to Dunedin Hospital yesterday to taste the food that Andrew Little described as “slops” in parliament.

Frankly I am appalled that Andrew Little denigrated hard working, probably unionised, hospital catering staff without testing the food himself.

Jonathan Coleman did though…and he said it was yummy.

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman has praised the ”standard Kiwi fare” he sampled at Dunedin Hospital today, and says there is ”nothing wrong” with the meals.

Dr Coleman took part in the taste test today due to pressure over the meals in recent days because of publicity about meals.

He ate bolognese and pasta, a sandwich, and soup, and enjoyed them all.

Dr Coleman suggested people needed to adjust their expectations about what to expect when they are in hospital.  

Fellow National MP Michael Woodhouse tweeted a picture of Dr Coleman “tucking into” the meal.

Mr Coleman told Newstalk while cost-cutting and economies of scale have been implemented in creating a national food delivery service, the food served to patients is just as good as ever despite complaints from patients to the contrary.

He says the food is straight, simple, “Kiwi fare” and has rated the experience.

“Ten out of ten. Absolutely nothing wrong with it. It was very tasty. I was going in there for a test, I ate the whole meal. I’ve just text my wife at home saying I won’t need tea tonight. It was very very good”.

He said he ate a tasty nutritious meal of pea and ham soup and pasta bolognese, chosen off the same menu patients were eating from.

That will teach Andrew Little for running off to parliament on the word of a Dunedin whinger and a photo. It all smacks of Andrew little’s own snapper moment.

I wonder if Compass food workers are happy that the former union boss slagged their efforts off in parliament.


– NZ Herald


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  • Asian_driver

    When I have been in hospital consuming thousands fo taxpayers dollars per day, drugged up to the eyes, the food was something to look forward to. This is just a hit job , the complainer was moaning about no veggies even though they were in his photos. The food I get here isnt much flasher , and i have to prepare it myself

    • Day Day

      Definitely a third rate hit job. Southlanders are made of sterner stuff than this complainer.

  • Richard

    I’ve spent more days and nights, in a number of different hospitals with our son than I care to remember.
    On no occasion, ever, have I had a meal that would deserve the description of “slops”,
    basic? yes, but always nutritious and that is exactly what they should be.

    Annette King is the one who stands in the House most weeks complaining about hospital budgets, I presume by all this her intention is to contract a Michelin star chef to take over catering duties?

  • Tom

    I have had a couple of weeks in Hospital and the food wasnt bad. However, my wife, a nurse pointed this out to me;

    Thursday, April 03, 2008

    The food is so bad that patients are starving
    As nothing less is expected from local health boards, a damning submission was made to an enquiry yesterday.

    hospital food was so “atrocious” and menus so inflexible that half of
    all patients were “starving” and ended up staying twice as long as a
    51 per cent were malnourished – and many had not entered hospital in that state
    Had no set nutritional standards for meals
    Malnutrition is rife in our public hospitals and we need to do something about it
    We have patients starving
    Standard of food was frequently described as “atrocious” and “absolutely appalling”
    The inconvenient truth for the left once more! edited

  • edenman

    I was recently in hospital and I was there for 2 breakfasts (just like at home ), 2 lunches (sandwiches) which were excellent. 1 hot evening meal of roast pork again very good. I commented to staff on the quality which was a vast improvement on previous visits, Having been the recipient of many hospital meals I think this was the first ‘hot meal’ that was served hot. Well done AHB

  • Aucky

    Little is being driven by the harridan that sits next to him on the front bench. Annette King has personally targeted both Tony Ryall and Jonathan Coleman constantly because they have exposed the appalling state in which she left our health system while she was Minister. Budget over-runs, staff shortages and cancer patients forced to fly to Australia for treatment were par for the course under her watch and she is now faced with the National Government operating one of the finest state health systems in the world. Little’s attack on Coleman at the behest of his new mates in Big Pharma failed and now the best that King can come up with is the tucker at Dunedin Hospital.

    Expose something of consequence Annette or resign your shadow portfolio.

  • phronesis

    I’m confused by the comments here and elsewhere from people talking about the hospital food they have experienced. This news item is about the food provided by Compass to the SDHB as of a few months ago. Discussing food at other hospitals is like commenting on a restaurant review about the food at a completely different restaurant!

    The issue here is that the SDHB was bullied by the MOH into signing a long term contract with essentially non-existent savings. The contrast between the freshly prepared food from the SDHB kitchens and the frozen food shipped down from Auckland is the point. People who receive meals on wheels eat this food every day for years and something like half of them have refused to eat the new meals. The cost of this in increased admissions to full time care and increased medical need due to frailty is likely to outweigh any savings in meal costs by at least 10 fold.

    • rantykiwi

      They weren’t bullied – they could take whatever path they wanted (as many of the other DHBs did). If SDHB feel they have made a mistake then they need to own the responsibility for it.

      That said, having looked at the tender documents for the nationwide food supply contract, I do not believe the Compass food delivery model is viable.

      • phronesis

        So why is the Minister of Health getting himself involved in an SDHB problem?

        • rantykiwi

          Would you care to explain what your vested interest in the hospital food model is? Your one-eyeed pushing of the “DHB bullied, Compass bad” mindset is obviously because you’re somehow financially affected by changes in hospital food funding.

          • phronesis

            None whatsoever. You on the other hand have apparently seen the tender documents so clearly have more than a passing interest. What is your connection to this and why didn’t you answer my question?

    • Richard

      That’s exactly Labours problem on this issue and the majority of other dead horse flogging it does.

      The fact the alleged issue is with SDHB is inconsequential.

      On any political issue, people will attach their own personal experiences and form an opinion accordingly.

      I know it may seem illogical to view things this way, but politics is ALL about perception and Labour need to go back to politics 101 school and stop mouthing off on issues just because a miniscule number of voters want to vent their spleens on twitter.

    • honeybadger

      And take note Phonesis, they are not ‘terminating’ the meals, it seems the providers are only ‘suspending’ them for the time being, soa lot are still being counted as active wheels on meals people

  • rantykiwi

    The patient approval rating of the food at CCDHB hospitals sits well over 90%. Once again the reality appears not to match Labour’s warped take on the world.

    • phronesis

      I had a really good meal in Chicago last week. What was your point?

      • rantykiwi

        Which part of the pretty stringent standards set for hospital food on a nationwide basis escapes you? There isn’t huge scope for variation within the hospital food contracts across the country.

        • phronesis

          Hilarious. You think nutritional standards have something to do with food quality and that food cooked in Wellington will be the same as food cooked in Auckland because it meets some laboratory testing standard.

  • Muzza

    Not saying it was, but even if the food tasted like warmed vomit, it’s not like the Minister was going to say anything but “yummy”, it’s just a bit of meaningless grandstanding

    • Sticktotheknitting

      How come he ate all of it then. People have got a bit too fussy. Smuggle in a few pies if you don’t like the menu.

      • honeybadger

        The only one who saw him ‘eat it all’, was himself, apparently the media were not allowed to watch

        • Aucky

          Who filmed the footage and took the photos? Maybe they were selfies.

  • Woody

    It has been a couple of days, but I went to boarding school and did some service in the armed forces. In both those places there were those who moaned about the quality of the food. Ok, it wasn’t 5 star dining but it was good nourishing food the equal of anything put on the table at home. Sometimes at home there was something served up which was sub par and the same is likely in any institution including in a hospital. If you are served up something that you simply don’t like – well tough.

  • oldmanNZ

    if there were real poverty, no one would complain about the food.

    Its just like airplane food, which people say is horrible, I quite like it.
    I had hospital food, its simple, maybe bland, but eatable and I would have seconds.

    put it this way, food is food. they get bread and baloney, a baloney sandwhich. Its prepared daily in a hygenic enviroment and conditions so its not going off.
    how can it taste awful.

    do people expect steak eggs and chips?

  • Grizz30

    It’s hospital not a restaurant. Food is calories and nutrients. It has to meet the tastes and needs of many. Sadly it will always be bland and poorly seasoned. For public health reasons you are not going to get large portions of fried chips. If you do not like it then bring your own food in.

    I do agree though that meals prepared on mass and frozen should be just as cheap to produce locally in Dunedin than prepared in Auckland with Auckland wages and shipped south.

  • Hard1

    Labour remind me of that awful image of the drugged out guy in lockup banging his head against the wall.

  • Chris Bell

    Might this be that the food was made in Auckland and not in Dunedin? – and therefore some patriotic Highlanders are going to get a bee in their bonnet about that – not anti-Highlander at all though – it’s where I’m from and proud of it. Gotta say as well the food looked good on TV but a sneaking suspicion took over me – would they put anything else on TV for the cameras to see?

    • honeybadger

      Exactly, Chris, there has been a lt of posts put up on facebook by people who are currently in Dunedin Hospital, and to be quite frank, they look like crap

  • Second time around

    It will be low salt because nutritionists know that that is good for us. For people who go free with the salt shaker that will come as a shock and it will seem tasteless. For people like Little who are blessed with the ability to judge food and its nutritional value just by holding up a photo, it will not meet his exacting standards, but again if the meal came from the finest Chinese restaurant in the land, he would still not want to eat it.

  • Sagacious Blonde

    Anaesthetic and medication also affect taste buds, so combined with low fat and low salt, food is going to taste different.
    I remember the mashed potato tasting so vile when in hospital for 2 1/2 weeks after surgery. When readmitted six weeks later, the same mashed potato was just fine.

  • Missy_Mink

    Having had my husband in Middlemore Hospital (CMDHB) in the last three months we both commented positively on the change in the menus. The meals from Compass are now served hot (from cabinets similar to those on airlines) and although not every meal was perhaps something we would serve at home, I don’t recall roast meals being served in the past. I’m talking roast vegetables, pork, beef or chicken & gravy, in fact the only meal he avoided was the fish, which was definitely not that appetising. All in all a great improvement, nourishing and a portion size option as well!

  • LesleyNZ

    Jonathan Coleman hit the nail on the head by explaining to Annette King that the hospital food is not cafe food (or for that matter restaurant food) but good old fashioned Kiwi tucker that perhaps our grandmas used to cook and eat. My mother-in-law had to go into North Shore hospital a few times these past couple of years. She loved the food there. We reckoned she went into hospital for the food – she never liked cooking for herself. Jonathan Coleman ate far better than I do for lunch!

  • SteveWrathall

    People don’t realise that hospital food has to be bland. They’re sick. Their body won’t take the normal, spicy, fatty, salty fare they love so much, and they don’t want to admit it.

    • Missy_Mink

      Good point but I still saw plenty of KFC coming into the wards at Middlemore Hospital, needless to say the hospital food was eaten by the extended family & visitors.

  • Huia

    Interesting subject this has raised even though I don’t really think it is about food. This is about politics and catering contracts I believe.
    I agree with others the hospital is not a 5 star restaurant. I have worked in 5 stars and believe it or not we had customers like this whiney fellow who complained that a Michelin Chef has served pig swill.
    This highlights that old saying “you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time”.
    What Labour and Mr Whiney are not taking into account is:
    the push for us all to eat smaller amounts as we are eating too much = Obesity.
    Of course we are used to big meals in our land of plenty, and feel as if our throat has been cut when we get dished up a small but adequate meal instead. (run to the media).
    Too much sugar is in our diets, we are constantly told this and it is a fact, so the hospital have limited the use of sugar in food which tends to make things blander than we are used to.
    Dietary requirements by the dozens of people in hospital like Diabetes for example.
    Allergies by the many and varied people, ie nuts, dairy, gluten, artificial colouring, seasoning, spices and all of that.
    Religious, trends, cultural beliefs, fads personal likes and dislikes plus a whole heap of food requirement demands, there is no leeway or give by the believers in their particular trend or religious indoctrination. I havent even mentioned the Vegans and Vegetarians and their protesting about animal products loudly and continually.
    Plain dietary dislikes would be an absolute nightmare for any catering company.
    All of these needs put together would make meals fairly bland but adequate to a daily calorie and nutritious intake, hospitals don’t let people starve, people refusing to eat what is in front of them are the ones starving, I believe its called self inflicted.
    I assume Mr Whiney is now out of hospital so his care must have been adequate to make him well again, despite not being able to scoff large steaks thick with fat plus fries covered in rich sauces and thick with salt. (see you back in the ward sooner rather than later then).
    The hospitals do a great job for the main part, and I for one have been very grateful for their care when it is required.
    I imagine all those children dropping dead in our NZ streets with malnutrition would be very grateful for the pigs swill Mr Whiney couldn’t digest.

  • Superman

    Any mass produced food tends to be a little bland. Hospital kitchens have a lot of problems to deal with and one of these is the time it takes from preparing the food to the time it gets to the patient. Another is the different food requirements that the patient’s medical condition demands. When a patient is well enough to complain about the food he or she is well enough to go home.

  • sandalwood789

    Nothing wrong with *any* hospital food that I’ve had!
    It’s simple, basic-but-tasty stuff and (as another commenter said) I would have “seconds” if I could.

  • Keanne Lawrence

    The Golden Award winning heckler is really scratching to get any traction when finding faults in the health system stooping to this last desperate attack on the food quality. It is more a belated attack on the means it is provided that reduced the numbers of unskilled staff. This cheap gutter politicking has failed them thus far but they are too dumb to catch on to what it is costing in support levels.

  • Steve (North Shore)

    Having had two surgeries in recent years I can say the Hospitals will not give you what you want, but they will give you what you need. Little just wants to put National and the Govt down

  • zotaccore

    Annette King was jumping all over this issue in parliament. It’s perplexing that they choose to get agitated over hospital food when there are really much more important issues currently happening. They’ve lost the plot. Did MccccCarten get in on this? Possibly the worst political party strategist in the history of NZ politics. Still he’s happy I’m sure to be picking up a huge pay packet (yup another chardonnay socialist).