In November 2008, the Welsh government restricted the products that can be sold through vending machines in Welsh Hospitals without any consultation with the Vending industry.
Fearing that this would be extended to other parts of the UK, the AVA formed the Vending Choice Coalition (a group comprising of key food and beverage associations, major brand manufacturers and operator companies) whose aim is to ensure that vending is able to continue to offer a wide range of products in hospitals.
A government review is now due and as the Welsh hospital debate heats up, incoming CEO of the AVA, Jonathan Hilder, is ready to take up the mantle and get involved. He finds the logic of the decisions regarding vending in Welsh hospitals taken by the Health Minister, Edwina Hart, very difficult to understand and has posed a series of questions which have yet to be answered.
- Why has there has been no discussion or approach to the AVA?
- Why use a food standard which is for TV advertising not nutritional content?
- Why are the products banned in vending machines readily available for sale in the shops in hospitals? Could it be because they contribute over £300,000 to current budgets!
“This is the wrong approach to a larger problem and vending is an easy target that will not achieve the stated aims of the Health Minister, all it will do is remove consumer choice and make going to hospital more stressful. You do not make lifestyle choices in a hospital A&E; you need comfort and support from missed meals and your distress.”
“Healthy eating is a real issue in our society which the AVA understands and through its members, offers choice to consumers. The items on sale through the machines reflect consumer demand and feature a range of products, including fresh fruit, low fat and low sugar products. If you remove vending from hospitals then you also remove the ability for staff and visitors to choose what they want when the shops are closed.”
Jonathan concluded: “Vending represents 5% of snack and confectionary market sales in the UK, so how will this ban change people’s view? This is just an easy political win i.e.: being seen to do something that has no real effect on society.”
The good news is that having circulated all Welsh Assembly members, the AVA has received support from them in its plea to try and understand the decision. The next step is to obtain a meeting with Edwina Hart’s department. Let the debate continue…