Dramatic U-turn for food hygiene rating at Ballygally Castle Hotel

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A historic hotel which was previously given the lowest possible rating for food hygiene has completed a dramatic grading U-turn.

When a food safety officer visited Ballygally Castle Hotel last month, they rated it at zero out of five, meaning “Urgent Improvement Necessary”.

But in a dramatic turnaround, the hotel’s rating has been bumped up to four (“Good”) following a re-inspection this week.

The 17th century castle and four star hotel on the picturesque Coast Road is part of the Hastings Hotel Group, a long-established Northern Ireland family company which owns some of the province’s best-known hotels.

Speaking prior to the reinspection, marketing director Julie Hastings said the family was “shocked and saddened” that the renowned coastal venue had received a zero.

She said: “We have always held the highest possible food hygiene rating in all our hotels, so we were very much taken aback by this, as were the staff at the hotel.”

This sentiment was shared by many local people, who took to social media in their droves to express their surprise at the inspector’s assessment. And while Julie acknowledged the zero rating had been a “blow” to the hotel’s reputation, she was also confident that the venue would bounce back.

The hygiene ratings, compiled by local authorities in partnership with the Food Standards Agency, are awarded to businesses based on how the food is handled, the condition and cleanliness of the premises and the management of the business, which includes good record keeping.

In a summary of its findings at Ballygally Castle last month, the council had stated that hygienic handling of food needed an “urgent improvement” while management of food safety, including systematic checks, required “major improvement”. The cleanliness and condition of the facilities was described as “generally satisfactory”.

The hotel had called for an “immediate re-inspection” of its facilities , which took place on Monday.

Julie added: “Ballygally Castle has been an important part if the community for many years and it enjoys a good reputation. We want to assure people that any issues identified by the inspector have been rectified.”

Food hygiene ratings are designed to enable consumers to make informed choices when eating out in restaurants, pubs, cafes, takeaways, hotels, and other outlets.

For more information about food hygiene ratings, visit www.food.gov.uk