NHS food "needs more money and investment" if it is going to adequately help a patient through recovery, said a health charity.
Michelle Mitchell from AGE UK was also keen to push for higher standards in nursing as the public "had heard story after story" about neglected patients who needed the support of a nurse or carer to eat.
Patients were "best placed" to decide what hospital food was good and what left a bad taste in their mouths, a Department of Health spokesman said.
He was speaking amidst claims hospital chiefs were awarding their hospital's food five stars while patients were dissatisfied with food.
However, the Department of Health also defended decisions made on hospital food "taken locally" by kitchen staff and ruled out legislating mandatory standards.
There are many fantastic examples of really good food across the NHS thanks to forward-thinking and innovative staff.
But we recognise that there is too much variation across the country - that is why we have implemented a tough new inspection programme...
We support the principle of food standards but do not think that legislation is the right way to proceed.
We believe that the best decisions on hospital food are those taken locally by chefs and catering managers.
Patients are the ones who consume hospital food and they are best placed to decide what is good and what is not.
Hospital chiefs think their patients are fed incredibly well and gave themselves the highest possible rating for their food, figures show.
Out of 156 hospitals in England, three out of five gave themselves full marks for the food served to patients.
However, this deliberately contradicts figures put forward by an independent Care Quality Commission survey which showed half of patients were dissatisfied with hospital food, said the Campaign for Better Hospital Food.
Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: "It is time for the Government to come clean about the sorry state of hospital food in England and set mandatory standards for patient meals.
"This would only involve extending an existing policy which has seen it set mandatory standards for prison food and food served in Government departments, to go alongside those that already exist for school food."
The team investigating reports of illness following the Street Spice festival in Newcastle in February have confirmed the same strain of salmonella which caused illness in hundreds of people has also been identified in samples of food ingredients used at the festival.
Letters are being sent to everyone who reported sickness following the event on behalf of Newcastle City Council. Director of Public Services and Public Protection Stephen Savage said:
"We know the same organism found in one of the food ingredients is likely to be responsible for the illness reported by people who attended the event. The investigating team are now looking at ways in which the food could have become contaminated with salmonella and whether there were any breaches of food safety legislation at any stage in the food chain where further formal action may be necessary."
People who visited the Street Spice food festival in Newcastle are being asked to fill out an online questionnaire after hundreds of people reported symptoms of food poisoning.
Environmental Health Officers are continuing to investigate and are talking to businesses and suppliers to try to identify the source of the outbreak, with results expected to be released this week.
12,000 people are thought to have visited the food festival while it was in the city.
Anyone who attended the event, whether they have been ill or not, are being advised to complete a confidential online questionnaire, available at http://tinyurl.com/streetspice.
Newcastle City Council says the number of people who contracted food poisoning from a spice festival in the city now stands at more than 380.
The number of those who have salmonella rose from 8 to 14, as more people called in to report experiencing the symptoms.
The council has stressed that these are not new cases, but rather that it is still collating the final figure of people affected by the incident.
The number of people reporting symptoms of food poisoning following the Street Spice festival in Newcastle has reached 300.
Eight cases of salmonella have been confirmed and tests are still being carried out by environmental health officers. They're working with 13 businesses which ran stalls in Times Square to identify the source.
The outbreak began between February 28th and March 2nd.
Around 250 people have reported symptoms such as diarrhoea and stomach cramps, after attending a food festival in Newcastle.
Eight cases of salmonella have been confirmed following the Street Spice event. It took place between 28 February and 2 March.
Investigations are continuing and the results of more tests are expected next week.
One of the event organisers told Helen Ford he is heartbroken and says hygiene was a top priority. Bob Arora believes his team had 'ticked all the boxes'.
Watch Helen's full report here:
Around 250 people are suspected to have contracted salmonella, following a food festival in Newcastle.
Eight cases have been confirmed. The outbreak began after the Street Spice event which took place in the city between 28 February and 2 March.
The authorities are working with the businesses which ran thirteen separate stalls to try to identify the source.
Those suspected of picking up the bacteria have reported flu-like symptoms and stomach pain.
The Health Protection Agency have released a statement after nearly 200 cases of sickness were reported following a food festival held in Newcastle.
The Street Spice festival visited Newcastle last week and is thought to have been attended by 12,000 people over the course of its visit.
“Initial investigations have not yet identified a definite source of infection, however, we are working closely with the organisers of the event to determine the source of infection.
"Anyone who is concerned about symptoms suggesting salmonella infection should contact their GP or out-of-hours service in the first instance.
"Those affected should not return to their place of work until their symptoms have ceased for 48 hours.”