Environmental Health Officers (EHO) from Aberdeen City Council expressed “serious concerns” over the safety of the food being served at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Aberdeen City after they visited the premises on 8 February.

The EHOs found that staff at the DoubleTree by Hilton Aberdeen City Centre hotel were deliberately relabelling food to extend its shelf life and also falsifying delivery records.

The steps taken to conceal the exact age and freshness of foodstuffs meant the EHOs could not say whether they were safe for consumption. They immediately ordered the withdrawal of three items from the restaurant menu and the destruction of almost 100 individual food items.

They said: “Should similar standards be found by this service again, consideration will be given to reporting this matter directly to the procurator fiscal recommending prosecution.”

The EHOs’ original report noted: “We arrived to start our inspection at 9am so it was not possible for all of those foods to have been made on that day. “After discussion with kitchen staff it was found that staff had been falsifying food records and re-labelling foods to extend their shelf life.”

Some food products were deemed out of date, others potentially unsafe, while others were concerning because their exact date could not be correctly identified. One sauce was described as “unidentifiable”.

Among the other breaches of food hygiene practices, inspectors noted that “sandwiches within the walk-in chill were covered with a wet, visibly dirty chef cloth”.
Packets of naan breads were found “strewn across the floor” within the walk-in freezer, while salmon was being prepared in a manner that had the potential to be hazardous to health.

Hand contact surfaces within the kitchen, particularly fridge handles, were found to be “very dirty and sticky to the touch”, indicating “a lack of frequent handwashing by staff”.

An orange juice machine was found to be “visibly dirty and rusty on the inside” while “nobody was aware how often it was cleaned.

In all, 97 individual food items had to be disposed of, including raw prawns, fish, chicken, and red meat, “visibly deteriorated” horseradish cream, piping bags of squid ink mash, a variety of prepared vegetables and a number of sauces. Cullen Skink, ham hock terrine and a salmon dish had to be removed from menus.

In the wake of the inspection, hotel management were told by officers they were “extremely concerned to find a general lack of control over food safety risks and a lack of appreciation of the importance of food safety among kitchen staff.
It became clear that two different food safety policies were being used and causing confusion to DoubleTree staff members, while the newest policy was found to be “inaccurate, inconsistent and had not been implemented in practice on the premises”.

An Aberdeen City Council spokesperson said: “The report followed a routine inspection, carried out in line with procedure. The food business operator resolved the immediate issues at the time of the inspection.”

A subsequent inspection carried out on March 27 found that while the inspector was “pleased to find a significant improvement” there were still outstanding unsafe issues.

A spokesperson for the hotel said: “We expect to uphold the highest of standards when it comes to food preparation at our hotel. We have been working closely to fully address the matters raised in the EHO’s February report. We have been working closely to fully address the matters raised in the report. As a result we have adjusted our processes and conducted training sessions for our team members, the EHO re-visited us in March and have indicated they are satisfied with the measures we have taken.”

Every food business has a responsibility to ensure that the food they produce is safe for their customers, however when there is lack of compliance of with food hygiene regulations EHOs will take appropriate action to ensure public health is protected. This case clearly demonstrates the crucial work that EHOs in Local Authorities in Scotland undertake on a daily basis.