A “regular diet” should be the new standard for nursing facility residents, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said in a recent memo to state survey agency directors.

Dated March 2, 2013, the memo advises clinicians and prescribers to make “a regular diet become the default, with only a small number of individuals needing restrictions.”

Following the recommendations of a task force consisting of 12 organizations representing “clinical professionals involved in developing diet orders and providing food service,” CMS noted that research had found “little benefit to many older individuals with chronic conditions from restrictions in dietary sugar and sodium, as well as little benefit from tube feedings, pureed diets, and thickened liquids.”

Although the new standards are based on the task force recommendations, the agency stopped short of requiring them for all nursing homes. They “do not represent CMS requirements,” and “surveyors should not issue deficiency citations simply because a facility is not following these particular recommended practices,” the memo says.

Providers that do follow these new standards “may rely on such adherence in response to questions regarding any changes from more restrictive diet protocols previously used,” the memo further says.

Go to www.cms.gov and search “dining standards” for more information.