Southampton’s Burger King revolt

Southampton General Hospital has recently announced that it will not be renewing its concession for Burger King at the hospital, which runs out in 2016. Apparently, if you’re a patient, visitor or member of staff, you will no longer be allowed to ‘have it your way’. Burger King does not, according to the hospital’s management, fit into a modern ‘healthcare environment’. The medical profession cracking down on food it deems unsuitable is not news – but the fact that there is a campaign to save the Burger King outlet certainly is.

According to the Southern Daily Echo, users of the hospital, past and present, are ready for a lightly toasted bun-fight over the decision. The petition, organised by Brett Phillips, the husband of a former patient, complains about the hospital’s own food, which Phillips says is poor quality and often cold by the time it turns up – if it turns up at all, that is. Being able to buy a Burger King meal, which is at least cooked on site, has been a lifeline. He concludes: ‘Burger King may not provide the healthiest of foods, but its quality is much higher than that of the hospital food. Southampton General will be making a big mistake if it doesn’t extend the lease beyond 2016.’

It would, of course, be good if the food provided by the hospital was of consistently good quality and was delivered to the wards when it was needed. But it would be better still if hospital managers left patients with a choice. Sometimes, the familiar and tasty is what people need when they’re ill. A burger and fries, if not exactly a lifesaver, can be a great comfort. A low-calorie salad just won’t cut the mustard.

There’s another problem, too: the idea that fast food is inherently unhealthy. This shows that what is driving Southampton General’s decision is not nutrition science but snobbery. A burger and chips is, in fact, packed with protein and vitamins, along with a nice big portion of calories – just what the doctor ordered for patients who need building up. To say a Burger King meal is bad for you is the biggest Whopper of them all.

Rob Lyons is a columnist for spiked.

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