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Food Packaging Improvement

HealthShare NSW
Project Added:
15 December 2014
Last updated:
15 December 2014


A successful partnership between HealthShare NSW and Arthritis Australia has dramatically redesigned packaged food, improving ease of opening to ensure NSW public hospital patients and people at home can access food more easily, increase the amount they eat, build nutrition and support good health outcomes.

A world first, this patient-centric project developed an innovative accessibility assessment tool and design guidelines, drove major changes to industry in Australia and internationally, changed business models, made accessibility a procurement condition, rewarded manufacturers for innovating on consumer need and transformed products for hospital and home use. This innovative public private partnership focused on improving nutrition in hospital and preventing deterioration of health in the home.

This project was a finalist in the Integrated Health Care category of the 2014 NSW Health Awards. Download a poster from the 2014 NSW Health Awards


This project aims to improve access to food, support good nutrition, improve quality of life and reduce hospitalization.


  • Improves access to opening food items and boosts nutrition.
  • Preventing illness and deterioration of health.
  • Improves overall health of patients and reduces length of stay.

Project Status

Sustained: the project has been implemented, is sustained in standard business.


The Garling report into acute care services in NSW public hospitals, identified difficulty opening food packaging as a major impediment to consumption of meals by inpatients and contributing to malnutrition in hospitals.

HealthShare NSW serves 22 million meals to patients in NSW hospitals annually. HealthShare partnered with Arthritis Australia and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) in the USA to address the problem of hard to open food packaging, a major barrier to nutrition in hospitals.

GTRI developed the world first Initial Scientific Review (ISR), a packaging accessibility report that scores each product and identifies areas for improvement. A high ISR score is now a requirement of the NSW Health procurement contract.

Poor nutrition increases hospitalisation and length of stay. Improved access to food keeps people well and out of hospital, particularly those who are aged or unwell.

New, sustainable business models make openability of food products a procurement contract requirement, help manufacturers embrace change and reward suppliers for innovating on patient need.


Clinical trials supported by Sydney Local Health District (LHD) involved consumers and clinicians in developing innovative and effective person-centred packaging solutions promoting self-reliance and dignity.

The partners worked closely with manufactures, retailers and business peak bodies to introduce design changes to products. Food Packaging Design Accessibility Guidelines are provided to give practical examples and specifications on how to design easy to open packaging.

The Food Packaging Accessibility Database, supported with an information pack, allows aged care facilities, private hospitals and other state Departments of Health to select improved items that meet the needs of patients, building economies of scale.

Providing a single national, independent measure for food packaging for the first time, the project offers Australian small business an escape from price only competition with multinationals, offering new opportunities and rewarding patient-centric innovation.

Over 60 per cent of all food packaging in NSW public hospitals has been or will be redesigned using the system. Woolworths will improve accessibility of all branded items by 2015 and NestlĂ© has used the system to redesign 30 household brands while Kellogg’s, Dole and SPC are following suit.

Easier to open packaged food allows for more efficient work systems freeing food services staff to spend more time at the bedside assisting patients.


The partnership has resulted in measurably improved ease of opening of menu items provided in NSW public hospitals and beyond, improving patient nutrition.

The ISR was developed to estimate the population that can safely open each item using a benchmarking scale and rate the product after changes are made to validate improvements.

A clinical trial at Concord Hospital gathered evidence on the capabilities of NSW public hospital patients, and validated the ISR as highly predictive of patient needs and helping improve patient outcomes.

The trial also demonstrated that accessible packaging provides benefits for people who are frail, aged, unwell or have reduced dexterity, increasing their food intake and supporting their nutrition outcomes, while retaining their independence.

Measurably improved menu items are now provided in NSW public hospitals, increasingly available in agedcare facilities and other hospitals and available around Australia and internationally. Food services and nursing staff report patients are more likely to attempt to open their own menu items and more food is consumed.

Improved ease of opening of hospital food encourages consumption of food and fluids, supporting nutrition outcomes, reducing complications from disease and cutting length of stay with clear budgetary benefits that can be returned to primary care.

Accessing food, cooking and eating well is a requirement for staying healthy and independent in the home, limiting hospitalisation, promoting independence and reducing health system costs.

New products also reduce waste, saving money and cutting waste collection costs.

The project’s aims and systems are recognised and adopted internationally for innovation and effectiveness.

Built around the new easier to open packaged food, new systems have been introduced, including cold plating and new Burloge carts that deliver meals at correct temperatures. New work processes have been introduced increasing the amount of time food services staff can spend at the bedside assisting patients. Ease of opening has been made a requirement of the NSW Health procurement contact.

The project is fully scalable, able to develop as the provision of food in NSW public hospital improves to meet new mandatory nutrition standards and is able to be successfully replicated in to other health services around Australia. The success of the project has already spurred change around Australia, with Health Departments of Tasmania, Victoria and ACT making accessible packaging a procurement requirement. Public hospitals in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland are switching to the redesigned products.

The Institute of Hospitality in Health Care promotes the ISR for use in private hospitals and aged care facilities around Australia, the RSL has urged national adoption and Australian Packaging Covenant guidelines, an agreement between governments, industry and community groups covering 90% of Australian packaged goods now includes accessibility.

In future this process could also valuably be used to promote better design of other products that enable people to live longer and more healthily in the homes such as gardening, cooking and cleaning equipment as well as the packaging of these items.


Arthritis Australia


Carmen RechbauerFood & Hotel Services Manager
HealthShare NSW
Phone: 02 8644 2024

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