Care home caterers need their own training qualifications, according to Derek Johnson, vice-chairman of the National Association of Care Caterers (NACC).
Johnson said the specialist nature of catering for the elderly, which includes dietary constraints and matching food to medication, called for a separate National Vocational Qualification (NVQ).
"A new qualification would reinforce the idea that catering in care homes is an important issue," said Johnson. He regretted the fact that an NVQ course was drafted three years ago but was never adopted.
Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow, who has tabled a private member's bill calling for minimum nutritional standards in care homes, agreed with Johnson that better training was needed.
"It is clearly of critical importance to delivering good nutrition in care homes and my bill would help put these issues on the agenda," he said.
Burstow has called on the Food Standards Agency to rule on the precise nature of any future nutritional standards.
He described the guidelines proposed by the Caroline Walker Trust (CWT) in a document entitled Eating Well For Older People as "an invaluable starting point".
Johnson also called for minimum nutritional standards but said the CWT guidelines should be taken together with specialist advice from the NACC.
He attacked the current rules, which simply state that care home food should be "wholesome", as too vague.
"The interpretation of 'wholesome' can vary greatly from one home to another," he said. "We need to go one step further and put legal requirements in place."
By Tom Bill
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