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Bacon and hot dogs would be banned from DC hospitals under bill introduced by Mary Cheh

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Bacon and hot dogs would be banned from DC hospitals if the DC Council passes a bill introduced Tuesday by Councilmember Mary Cheh.

Cheh says her bill would eliminate processed meat from hospital menus and would have hospitals provide plant-based options for patients, staff, and visitors. The bill would also require hospitals to reduce soda and sugar-sweetened beverages in hospital vending machines, menus, and cafeterias.

“Doctors and healthcare providers have long advised us that nutrition is essential to health, and we’re finally seeing healthy food be taken seriously as an important part of healthcare,” Cheh said.

“Go into a hospital and you will see sugary drinks, processed meats, and foods high in added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat—the very same foods we know are making us sick.”

Processed meat has been determined to be carcinogenic and a major contributor to colorectal cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

It has also been linked to death from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

The Healthy Hospitals Amendment Act of 2019 includes the following requirements:

(1) Hospitals shall make available to patients, staff, and visitors a variety of healthful foods, including vegetarian and 100% plant-based meals, and meals that are low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars, and shall ensure that all patients, staff, and visitors are made aware of these options through appropriate menu listings, signage, or other means; (2) Hospitals shall eliminate processed meats from all menus; (3) Hospitals shall provide and promote healthful beverages.

“Councilmember Cheh’s bill will provide physicians and patients a ‘teachable moment’ to discuss the importance of good nutrition in fighting heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes, which are among the top five causes of death in D.C.,” says Susan Levin, MS, RD, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a dietitian with the Barnard Medical Center in Friendship Heights.

Based on a resolution passed by the American Medical Association in 2017, the bill would require the Department of Health to establish nutrition guidelines for foods served by District hospitals.

"It’s not uncommon for patients to wake up from heart surgery to be greeted with bacon and sausage—the very foods that may have contributed to their health problems in the first place,” says Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a DC-based nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctors.

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Similar bills, mandating plant-based hospital meals, passed in California in 2018 and in New York this year.

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