In view of the total reliance of detainees on prison authorities for their basic needs, the provision of clean water at all times and good quality food is essential to maintaining their health and strength. Failure to meet these basic requirements can constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or even torture. The quality of the diet of detainees, including its minimum caloric and protein content, must be stipulated by law. Deprivation of food and water is prohibited in all circumstances, including as a form of disciplinary sanction.
Food is a vital issue and the root cause of many conflicts and frustrations in prisons. The quantity, quality, delivery schedules, temperature and variety of food menus tend to be polarising factors in daily prison life.
Institutions must provide a special diet to certain detainee categories. Cultural and religious practices, and specific needs based on medical criteria, should be duly taken into account in this regard. Similarly, pregnant or nursing women and their children must receive a suitable diet.