Is hospital a safe place for celiacs to eat?
If you are a celiac and go into hospital for any unscheduled/scheduled stay lasting more than a few hours, then you would expect to need to eat at some point. However, many patients have reported a disturbing lack of education over the foods that a celiac can and can't eat among hospital caterers, and even the nurses caring for them.
Because hospital catering services can differ significantly, and are based on the contract awarded to a particular caterer e.g. normally the cheapest quote wins, it means that the standards of food and catering can vary widely.
Now in defence of hospital catering, apart from the fact that everything is lukewarm and unappetising, they do have to provide meals to a lot of patients in a short period of time. But, how do they cope with ensuring that meals for celiacs, or indeed any other food allergy such as nuts, are prepared safely without the risk of cross-contamination? And how can the patient be confident of this?
Caterers have also become more reluctant to guarantee allergy specific foods in hospitals, because the tighter regulations over labelling etc have made it more onerous for them to ensure they are preparing allergy or dietary specific foods correctly.
It is every patients' right to be fed while they are in hospital, for a start they will recover sooner if they are receiving nutrition. However many food allergy sufferers are opting to subsist on things relatives buy from the hospital shop, instead of risking eating the hospital fare. Soda, potato chips and candy aren't going to feed a body in need of repair.
So it comes back to education. I've been offered digestive biscuits after coming round from sedation for my gastroscopy to test for celiac disease. And on another occasion, after a full anaesthetic, I was offered a whole wheat muffin, luckily I was lucid enough to wag the bright red wrist band that clearly said "WHEAT ALLERGY" under the nurses nose before she started shovelling it into my mouth.
Now, not all hospitals are the same, some have caterers who are providing an excellent service, including for specific dietary needs. But there is no doubt that going into hospital is stressful, and the worry over being given food that may cause a severe reaction exacerbates that stress.
So again it comes back to education and you doing your bit to help provide that education. If you have advance warning of a hospital stay then one of the things you should enquire about in advance is the availability of suitable foods for your dietary needs. Don't leave it until you're coming round from surgery.
Personally, I would always arrange for a friend or family member to bring in suitable/safe foods each day.