Two cafes at Auckland hospitals have carved at least a quarter off their muffins and slices to satisfy health chiefs' hopes to trim customers' waistlines.
The change was made "voluntarily" by the Muffin Break franchise company, Foodco, said the Auckland District Health Board, which had been "working with Muffin Break since 2007 to develop healthier choices in their food and drink range". Public health campaigners have long lobbied hospitals to take a stand and allow only healthy food and drink to be sold on their premises.
Many were appalled by McDonald's being allowed to sell fast-food within the Starship children's hospital. After eight years at the site, it closed in 2005 - seven years before its lease ran out - because a major reconfiguration of buildings had left its outlet remote from the main public cafe action in a foyer of the then-new adults' hospital at Grafton.
Muffin Break has a cafe there, and at the DHB's Greenlane Clinical Centre. Foodco general manager Garry Croft said the two hospital cafes had reduced the size of muffins by, on average, a quarter and slices and some cakes by half. This had also been done at two other Muffin Break cafes - which he refused to name - on a trial basis. The smaller muffins cost $3.80, a reduction of 5 per cent; and the smaller slices $2.20, down 45 per cent.
When asked if drink sizes would be cut, too, Mr Croft said: "We've removed from Auckland (City Hospital) and Greenlane all the full-sugar carbonated drinks. We're looking at what we do with the other drinks in store."
These included smoothies. Muffin Break smoothies contain nearly a quarter of the median daily energy intake of a New Zealand woman, and nearly a sixth of a man's intake.
Fight the Obesity Epidemic spokeswoman Dr Robyn Toomath applauded the portion-size cut, which she said followed similar changes that occurred at Wellington Hospital when she worked there.
"I think it's responsible for organisations that have control over food provision around the place to set the expectations for healthy foods," he said.
The DHB's chief planning and funding officer, Denis Jury, said it had a statutory responsibility to promote the health of Aucklanders.
"A key component of this is ensuring we model a healthy food environment on our sites, acknowledging poor nutrition is a significant driver of the burden of disease on the people of Auckland."
He said Muffin Break's portion-size cuts was "a responsible move and a small example of the public and private sectors working together in partnership to deliver better public health outcomes".