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Failing food hygiene at top-rated UK hotels

More than 650 properties with poor ratings

There may be five-star facilities and a restaurant feted with awards, but a Which? Travel investigation has found that some luxury hotels have failed their food hygiene inspection. Worse still, the scores are being kept a secret.

In total, 652 UK hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses have poor food hygiene ratings, indicating that improvement is necessary, in some cases urgently. Each of these businesses received a score of ‘2’ or below (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) scale, or an ‘improvement required’ rating in Scotland. The list not only includes five-star stays, but accommodation in tourist hotspots, and some big brand names that you’d expect to have a clean bill of health.

Luxury hotels

In sight of York Minster cathedral, four-star Dean Court Hotel, part of the Best Western Premier Collection holds two AA rosettes, but hygiene inspectors found its kitchens in need of ‘major improvement’, awarding a rating of just ‘1’. Meanwhile, in London’s Westminster, the five-star Royal Horseguards also has two AA rosettes – and a food hygiene rating of just ‘2’. We presented these results to the hotels. Best Western blamed the score at Dean Court Hotel in York on ‘a previous chef’s administrative oversight and clerical error’. While Guoman Hotels, owner of The Royal Horseguards, told us that ‘a new senior management team immediately took action to improve standards’. Both properties told us they are currently awaiting re-inspection.

In Birmingham, food hygiene inspectors visiting the city-centre Novotel, noted ‘high-risk food… out of temperature control’, flies in food preparation areas and a poor standard of cleaning throughout.  Novotel’s owner, Accor, said of its Birmingham property: ‘We took immediate action to correct the issues raised from the inspection.’  It is also awaiting re-inspection.

Hidden food hygiene ratings

Environmental health officers acting for local councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland rate food businesses, including hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses, from ‘0’ (urgent improvement necessary) to ‘5’ (very good), while those in Scotland receive a ‘pass’ or ‘improvement required’ rating. The results are published on the FSA website and hotels are given a sticker to display at the entrance to their premises.

However, displaying ratings is not mandatory in England or Scotland, and FSA research shows that businesses with a lower rating (‘3’ or less) are significantly less likely to display their sticker. Which? Travel sent undercover researchers to eight hotels in London, Birmingham and Northumberland with a food hygiene rating of between ‘0’ and ‘2’. Not one was visibly displaying its rating.

Expert view

Which? supports the mandatory display of ratings for hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses across the UK, not only outside premises, but also on their websites. After all, what use is finding out the hotel breakfast is cooked in a zero-rated kitchen after you’ve checked in? The FSA also believes a compulsory scheme is necessary and is building a case for mandatory display to be rolled out in England and Scotland. We will be sharing its latest research with the FSA to help strengthen its argument.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said:
‘More than 90% of us eat at least one meal in our overnight accommodation, so it’s vital that hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses have high standards of food hygiene. We know that displaying the rating outside the premises encourages higher standards, which is why we support the FSA case for a compulsory display scheme.’

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