Food choice improvements, but challenges still exist: chef

Freedom for aged care residents to enjoy food of their liking and choice had seen some improvement in recent years, but there were still challenges to overcome, according to HammondCare's Executive Chef and Aged Care Food Ambassador, Peter Morgan-Jones.

Peter made his comments in the midst of preparing a new cookbook for people with dementia and as aged care provider St Elizabeth Home, raised the issue with Minister for Aged Care, Sussan Ley and other politicians.

“HammondCare Chief Executive Dr Stephen Judd kicked off debate about the impact of food safety regulations on aged care residents in 2010 when he described eggs poached according to regulation of the day as 'kiln-fired organic pottery’. That helped spark Maggie Beer’s campaign towards better food in aged care and my own appointment as HammondCare's Aged Care Food Ambassador and Executive Chef," Mr Morgan-Jones said.

“Through a great deal of advocacy, we have seen some regulatory change since then such as in NSW where we are able to serve poached eggs as long as the egg white is firm and the edge of the yoke closest to the white is setting. We can also now serve soft cheeses and don’t have to sanitise fruit and vegetables, except for melons.

food choice improvements

Challenges continue

“But challenges clearly continue. One challenge is that food regulations often tighten again over time and in part this leads aged care providers to be reluctant to change their practice.

"Another challenge is fear-based over-compliance which is quite common still. We would urge providers to avoid giving in to the ‘fear of not complying’ and continue to explore ways they can shape the process of food provision around the needs and wants of the older person, not the organisation (nor the regulators).

“And the fact that food safety regulations vary drastically across state and territories also presents challenges for a federally accredited sector.

“It's important these issues are raised so we can continue to pursue the goal of beautiful meals everyday for aged care residents.

Good news as well

"The good news is that there is much that can be done to improve food quality, choice and nutrition in aged care, including designing aged care homes with fresh cook kitchens, such as in all our dementia cottages, to use fresh and seasonal produce and taking the time to know the residents and their specific needs and wants.

“People can check out our cookbook Don’t give me eggs that bounce for a range of advice and recipes for older people and people with dementia and our new cookbook next year that focuses on snacks and finger foods that make such a big difference in ensuring healthy and enjoyable eating for people with dementia."