Nursing homes and other healthcare facilities in California may be required to offer residents vegan meal options under a new state law.
The Golden State could be the first to make that requirement, after the State Assembly last week passed SB-1138 in a 69-9 vote. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) had not said as of Friday whether he plans to sign the measure, Modern Healthcare reports.
Under the new law, licensed skilled nursing facilities, acute care hospitals and other provider types would be required to make available “wholesome, plant-based meals of such variety as to meet the needs of patients in accordance with their physician orders.” Per the law’s definition, that means the meals contain no animal products or byproducts, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy or eggs.
Some hospitals have been reluctant to offer vegan meals on their own, for fear of driving up costs, experts said. Jeannee Parker Martin, president and CEO of LeadingAge California, said the organization has not taken a position on the new law. However, hospitals in the state have promoted plant-based diets as a way to boost heart health, she said. Some research has shown that beef consumption can up the risk of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
“Since individuals are going to the hospital or nursing home to, generally, improve their health status, it makes sense that food served promotes such improvement,” she told McKnight’s. “If you have heart disease, eating more beef is not likely going to improve your health status, but rather may cause further deterioration.”
She added that costs likely will not be an issue for California nursing homes, as the law specifies that healthcare facilities must make plant-based options available “in accordance with their physician’s orders.”
“There may be a slight uptick in costs initially, but we don’t anticipate that they will be significant,” Parker Martin said.