Health Minister Caroline Flint conceded yesterday there were problems with malnutrition in hospitals but said much was being done to resolve the issue.
The problem was highlighted by charity Age Concern, which warned lives were at risk because nurses did not always have time to feed elderly patients.
A s reported in yesterday's Birmingham Post, in a survey of 500 nurses, nine out of ten did not always have time to help patients with eating and drinking.
"There is no excuse for people coming into our hospitals not being fed properly," she said.
The Minister said 85,000 nurses had been introduced into the NHS and 3,000 matrons.
"I am afraid to say there are still places, probably too many, where this still happens," she added.
Ms Flint said new initiatives had been introduced, such as prioritised meal times - where nurses focus entirely on patients' eating - and "red tray" policies, where those with dietary problems are highlighted.
Age Concern said 60 per cent of older patients, who occupy two-thirds of beds, were at risk of malnourishment or seeing their health worsen.
Those over 80 were particularly at risk, with a five times higher rate of malnutrition than under-50s.
Ms Flint said 40 per cent were already malnourished.
She urged Age Concern to share its findings with the Department of Health to identify failing hospitals.
The Royal College of Nursing said the findings showed the cost of under-staffing.
Malnourished patients stay longer and are three times as likely to develop complications in surgery. The cost of malnutrition is estimated at more than £7.3 billion a year, according to figures from the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.
Gordon Lishman, director-general of the charity, said: "Hospitals are in danger of becoming bad for the health of older people."