Is this common?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

how was such a situation allowed to occur? Image © Dan Sperrin

From the Aberdeen Press & Journal this morning comes a story about a hotel and how it stores food that should make holidaymakers concerned?

Apparently last February, environmental health inspectors visited the Doubletree Hotel in Aberdeen’s city centre at 9am. What they found was not just poor and sloppy storage of foodstuffs – both prepared and raw  -but that there had also been tampering with food labels so that the shelf life was extended ie food that should have not have been used was given an extended shelf life making it fit for human consumption.

The reason I mentioned the 9am timing was because, as the inspectors say in their report, the foodstuffs could not have been prepared on that day.

If we are talking about one or two items I might feel a little more sympathetic to the hotel because which of us has never found the odd item of food lurking at the back of a fridge or freezer and which should have been thrown long ago. I am also not a big supporter of “use-by” dates since some food stuffs like cheese can be still maturing and becomes tastier after the date.

But in this instance the newspaper says that dozens of containers containing things like “discoloured meat and mouldy cheesecake” had to be thrown. The Press & Journal goes on to say, “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.”

That ninety seven items had to be thrown doesn’t show carelessness; it shows systemic deceit and a hotel culture that tolerated it.

The newspaper story says that “During the inspection council officers were told that product testing had been carried out to verify the standard of food, but documentation of this could not be required on request. 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”.

I find those statements shameful suggesting that either the hotel didn’t know what it was doing and seemingly saying that the staff were not really to blame because they couldn’t follow. Surely anybody could recognise food that had turned a funny colour!

The inspectors visited the hotel a month later and found that – according to Doubletree – “they are satisfied with the measures we have taken.”

This raises a number of questions. Why, for example, did the inspectors not close the kitchens at the hotel until they had been thoroughly cleaned so all traces of decaying food were cleared out? Why did it take a month to the next inspection and was it at an agreed time or was it a spot check? What has happened to the kitchen staff? Were they re-trained or fired? Did Doubletree order a check on all their other hotels to see if the problem was chain-wide or just limited to Aberdeen? And how is it that Doubletree’s own managers were not aware of this?

Out of interest I looked at the seven February dated reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor and there is nothing about sending food back or the food tasting funny. But there are no reviews between 18th of February and the end of the month. I looked at which had ten reviews for last February that talked of the food and the most critical was from John saying that the “Food not to my expectations from such a well known brand” unlike Colin who said that “Dinner was excellent.”

If the quality of the food was bad, wouldn’t you have expected guests to point that out? That they didn’t does raise more questions in my mind such as why didn’t it appear in reveiws? Why didn’t it show up on Doubltree’s own customer satisfaction system? That it didn’t suggests their system is ineffective – at least as it relates to food.

Finally, did inspectors visit other Doubletree hotels to see if the problem was limited to just this one hotel? And should they visit other hotels in the city to see if it is a brand-based problem or a city based one?

As a frequent hotel stayer, I hope that this situation doesn’t happen anywhere else.



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