Food hygiene standards of hospital kitchens have come under spotlight following a consumer survey which found evidence of dirty cooking equipment and cockroach infestations in some NHS facilities.
A review of hospital hygiene inspection reports for some 50 UK hospitals, including some in Ulster, over the past three years by the Which? Magazine revealed dirty or moldy equipment in several kitchens in addition to lack of soap and hot water, cockroach infestations and inadequate refrigeration.
Food fridges on wards were found to be used to store medical supplies at two hospitals. Two reports for another hospital showed stale food, mice infestations and inadequate kitchen ventilation.
Although the magazine has not named the specific hospitals Northern Ireland was included.
According to a Which? spokesman of the hospitals surveyed, the facilities in Northern Ireland fared well, but were not the best.
Magazine editor Neil Fowler has said that the consumer group intended to send its findings to the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency.
He said, "Hospital food hasn't got the best of reputations, but you'd expect the kitchens to be clean at the very least."
"Unfortunately we've found this isn't always the case."
Which? also carried out an online survey during June and July of 833 people who had stayed in hospital in the previous year.
This assessment comes close on the heels of an Independent Assessment of Environmental Cleanliness in HSS Trust Facilities report that revealed many Ulster health trusts were not as clean as they portrayed.The report authors stated that while trust facilities in Ulster "are not seriously dirty" there was "room for improvement".
Of the 18 hospital and community trusts, only Newry And Mourne Health And Social Services Trust - which runs Daisy Hill Hospital - was placed in the top band 1 grouping, with a score of 92%.
Band 2 included five trusts, that scored between 80 and 89% and 10 hospital and community trusts fell into band 3, scoring between 70 and 79%.
The trusts in band 4 with the lowest scores were Altnagelvin in Londonderry (64%) and South and East Belfast Health and Social Services Trust (56%).
Ulster's big two trusts, the Royal Group and Belfast City, were in the band 3 category.
According to the report while facilities are "not seriously dirty", minor failures in cleanliness, such as "dusty surfaces", general untidiness and clutter, stains on floors, and signs of spillage were seen.
Health Minister Paul Goggins said: "I know people are concerned about the cleanliness of hospital wards and I am determined to make improvements.
"The report makes it clear that more needs to be done to ensure high standards of cleanliness and I will be keeping a close eye on progress."
The minister said he has required the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority to give annual assessments of cleaning standards.