Beware of dirty hotel drinking glasses

Published 7:20 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2007

By Staff
From time to time articles are submitted to Extension Agents for republication to the public. This article was written by Jean Weese, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System food safety specialist and Auburn University professor of nutrition and food science. The message is so timely that I wanted to share it with all of you who love to travel.
It's enough to make some travelers carry their own cups and glasses with them when they stay overnight in a hotel.
Using a hidden camera, health officials in Atlanta discovered that several hotels throughout the city were not cleaning drinking glasses properly. Instead of washing used drinking glasses with the prescribed hot water and detergent, some hotel employees were merely wiping the glasses with glass cleaner and returning them.
All of these hotels received written warnings from city health officials about these hygienic lapses. Whatever the cases, this discovery should serve as yet another sobering reminder to every consumer that when it comes to consuming any food or drink, we must assume responsibility for our own safety. Leaving this responsibility to third parties, such as food providers and hotels, is naive, according to one expert.
While more hotels and motels than ever before have adopted disposable glasses, many others haven't. And Weese says there is every reason to regard these glasses with suspicion, especially in cases where the motel or hotel lacks a restaurant. But this rule should apply even with four- and five-star hotels equipped with restaurants, she says.
Yes, these glasses may have been run through an industrial-grade dishwasher. But they're still being carried on racks over considerable distances - up elevators and down hallways and exposed to all manner of contaminants, including the saliva from employees and passing hotel guests.
As a general rule, Weese says hotel occupants should assume the worst whenever they see a seemingly clean glass turned upside down on a serving tray.
While the glasses could be washed out under a bathroom sink with hot water, Weese says there's no way of knowing for sure whether the water is hot enough to sterilize the glass. However, in cases where coffee makers are provided, she says it is possible to sterilize the glass with water heated by the coffee maker.
Still, a far better safeguard is to bring your own glasses or, better yet, disposable cups, in cases where none is available, she says.
In terms of food and drinking safety, Weese has been a strong proponent of personal responsibility, despite the fact that American hygienic standards are among the best in the world.
So remember to keep your safety and these tips in mind when you check-in to your next hotel or motel.