PRISONERS are enjoying "five-star" food better than anything dished up to hospital patients, health campaigners and politicians have claimed.
Menus released by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) show that criminals are being served meals such as chicken a la king, stuffed peppers and cous cous, and fish in mornay sauce.
Prisoners at private Addiewell prison in West Lothian get six choices of main meal daily.
Health campaigners said NHS hospitals and the SPS should swap menus as some patients were getting food resembling a "rubber ball".
The menus for Barlinnie and Low Moss in Glasgow, Cornton Vale near Stirling and Glenochil, near Alloa were released under the Freedom of Information Act.
At Addiewell, prisoners are given six choices for both lunch and dinner, compared with three for state prisons.
All prisons offer two choices for dessert in the evening, and 50/50 or wholemeal bread - rare in the NHS - with butter or sunflower spread is also available.
In Addiewell prisoners are offered a range of prepared meals that include chicken a la king, vegetable biryani, paella and fish in mornay sauce.
Homemade chicken and mushroom pie is served with vegetable and cream potatoes at HMP Barlinnie, where haggis, breaded fish and chicken chashi are also on the menu.
At Cornton Vale inmates are offered meals including cous cous, oriental stir fry and traditional steak pie with vegetables.
Glenochil provides prisoners with a range of foods including gammon steaks, chicken fajitas, szechan pork and noodles, with roast chicken and vegetables on a Sunday evening.
Low Moss has ratatouille and chilli Mexican taco among the options.
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of Patient Association Scotland, said: "Prisoners seem to be living in a five-star hotel compared to our patients, who are living in one-star.
"I had a patient who recently complained to me about the food she had received in hospital and said it was like a rubber ball. We're asking, please give the prison menus to our patients and give the hospital menus to prisoners."
Concerns have been raised repeatedly about the quality of food served on hospital wards and last week a MasterChef-style competition was launched for hospital catering staff to devise a range of menus in a bid to improve the standard of patient food.
The Herald journalist Anne Johnstone collected the views of fellow patients while being treated at the Beatson Oncology Centre at Glasgow's Gartnavel Hospital last year. She said the food was "execrable" with a "revolting" smell.
It later emerged patients were being fed for little more than £4 a day in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and just £1.94 in NHS Western Isles.
The Scottish Prison Service confirmed yesterday that an average of £2.42 per prisoner was spent daily.
A spokeswoman said: "The SPS ensures that our daily menu selection accommodates the dietary requirements for those in our care. The meals prepared have suitable nutritional content and comply with the guidelines of the Food Standards Agency. Healthy snack options are also regularly offered to offenders."
But Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said yesterday: "Victims of crime would be upset and insulted at the idea of every dinner time being a lavish event for their tormenters to sink their teeth into.
"Considering the Scottish Government is considering ways to improve hospital food, a good place to start would be redressing this balance."