Exclusive:Donald Trump's Scottish resort fails hygiene inspection amid food safety issues
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Dirty chopping boards and appliances, food handlers failing to wash their hands properly, and sausage meat found to be nearly three months out of date. Even for a run-of-the-mill café, they are the kind of issues that would raise eyebrows. But when the premises in question are owned by a former US president, and marketed as one of the world’s leading hotels, the findings are even more eye-catching.
The Scotsman can reveal Donald Trump’s inaugural property in Scotland has been told to make a raft of improvements by environmental health officials after an array of cleanliness and food safety issues saw the high-end hotel and golf resort fail to achieve a pass grade under a national food hygiene scheme.
Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire, which was hailed only this year by Mr Trump ahead of his visit to Scotland as “among the greatest in the world”, was adjudged to have failed to meet its legal requirements under the scheme. Inspectors from the local authority identified a build up of dirt and debris in various areas of the kitchen, including beneath fryers, a fridge, and a shelving unit beside an oven.
When food handlers were washing their hands, the officials noticed, they ended up contaminating them instead of cleaning them, having used their hands to turn off a tap instead of a paper towel. Elsewhere, a freezer unit was found to be broken, with the door seal on a fridge damaged, and surfaces “not being effectively sanitised”.
In the wake of the inspection, a senior environmental health officer at the local authority told management at Mr Trump’s resort it was “disappointing” to note the cleaning issues, and indicated that its “very generic” food management system required to be reviewed. The officer said that during discussions with the head chef, “it was evident that the system had not been read”.
The problems led to the property, which promotes its “gourmet cuisine” as “the best that Scotland has to offer”, being served with an ‘improvement required’ notice under Scotland’s food hygiene information scheme. The initiative was launched by Food Standards Scotland (FSSS) to allow consumers to ensure the food they are eating has been prepared to legal standards.
While the notice is on an online database maintained by FSS, no detail is provided. But following a Freedom of Information request, The Scotsman obtained reports and correspondence detailing why the property failed to achieve a pass. Mr Trump’s hotel was first served with an ‘improvement notice’ following an official inspection in March last year. Aberdeenshire Council confirmed to The Scotsman this week that its status remains unchanged.
There are more than 52,000 businesses listed in the food hygiene information system, according to the latest FSS annual report. The average pass rate is 93 per cent. Businesses that do not achieve a pass are able to continue trading and appeal or request a revisit by inspectors. It is unclear if Mr Trump’s property has pursued either avenue.
The inspection, known as an official control intervention, should not have come as a surprise to management at the resort. The environmental health officer pointed out that it was an announced visit, and the kitchen had been closed for two days beforehand. That, their letter suggested, should have given staff an opportunity to “clean beforehand”.
Instead, the inspector found an array of dirty equipment, including a chopping board, a raw meat vacuum packer, and lids that had fallen on the floor. Other chopping boards used by kitchen staff were “badly scored” and could no longer be effectively cleaned.
When the official opened one freezer, they found sausage meat labelled ‘keep refrigerated’. The meat had a use-by-date some 83 days before the inspection. The date coding of stock differed between the written system and what happened in the kitchen, with the official noting: “The system stated that a five-day shelf life should be given to vacuum packed items. However, food handlers were giving the items a ten-day shelf life.”
Some freezers in the kitchen were being recorded at -17C, when the critical limit was -18C or below, with fridges recorded at 5.5C when the critical limit was between 0 to 5C. “The records,” the inspection also noted, “were being signed off before they were completed.”
Environmental health officers also issued the firm with an 11-strong schedule of compliance requirements. It specified dirty floors and equipment should be cleaned, as well as a review of its food safety management system. It also said staff must check stock daily and dispose of any out-of-date food.
Marketing materials for Mr Trump’s resort talk of “exquisite dining” for every occasion, with catering available for weddings and corporate away days. Its signature restaurant, The Dunes, promises diners a selection of “stylish modern classics” and “firm favourites” served with “a Trump twist”. Offerings on the current menus include a £30 ‘Trump maple-glazed pork chop’.
The Trump Organisation’s website states it has a “long-standing commitment to providing impeccably clean properties, with a focus on ensuring the health and safety of our associates, guests and residents”. But its Aberdeenshire bolthole is not the first of its businesses to fall foul of inspectors.
During Mr Trump’s time in office, his Mar-a-Lago country club in Florida was cited for several food safety violations, including potentially dangerous raw fish, and a lack of hot water at sinks which left staff unable to sanitise their hands. In New York, inspectors also found evidence of vermin at a restaurant in his flagship Trump Tower property.
The Scotsman asked the Trump Organisation if it had acted on the improvements specified by inspectors, and whether Mr Trump was aware his property had failed to pass the food hygiene inspection before declaring it one of the world’s greatest hotels. The company did not respond before publication.
However, on Saturday afternoon, Sarah Malone, Executive Vice President, Trump International Scotland, claimed they “categorically reject” the report and suggested a Pass Certificate had now been achieved.
The statement read: “This resort has never failed a food hygiene inspection and has a Pass Certificate dated March 2023.
“As all hospitality businesses know, it is routine for all food hygiene inspectors to make improvement recommendations, and such recommendations are always implemented.”