Best Western goes high-tech to clean

When I think Best Western, I think free wi-fi.

Maybe I should be thinking, cleaner rooms.

There’s a certain snobbery about hotel rooms similar to restaurants: dives are dirty, fancy ones are clean.

Decades of restaurant inspection data show bacteria and other bugs don’t discriminate; they’re equal-opportunity contaminants. Data from hotels is starting to show the same (don’t let the bed bugs bite).

The best thing about Best Western is they’re marketing cleanliness. Just like food providers should be doing.

USA Today reports Best Western Hotels, in response to what it says is travelers’ insistence on cleanliness, is equipping its housekeeping crews with black lights to detect biological matter otherwise unseen by the human eye, and ultraviolet light wands to zap it.

For possibly the dirtiest object in your room — the TV remote control — there will be disposable wraps.

Best Western says it’s taking the steps partly because research from Booz & Company shows that travelers desire a hotel’s cleanliness over customer service, style and design.

But it’s also reacting to the times, in which hotels and supermarkets place hand sanitizer in visible places for germ-obsessed customers (Australia, you paying attention yet?).

People also have become more skeptical about cleanliness because of headlines about E. coli, norovirus and bird flu, says Ron Pohl, a Best Western vice president.

Elbow shake

Magic glove syndrome, the phenomenon where food service workers think they are immune to cross-contamination because they’re wearing protective gloves, is rampant on reality TV. Even our own butcher here in Brisbane touches everything from raw meat to money with his gloves on. It’s just one of those things I never would have thought about before I met Doug, but now I find it disgusting.

Tonight I’m catching up on missed episodes of Top Chef Just Desserts and have noticed some glove action going on. First, during a one-handed challenge, an opponent helped Chef Orlando put a sanitary glove on the one hand he was allowed to use. Then I did a happy double-take when I saw Chef Sally Camacho offer her elbow to Judge Hubert Keller at an event the cheftestants catered in L.A. She respected her gloved hands and diners by avoiding bringing potential clients’ germs into her dishes. 

Taking toddlers to fancy restaurants

Italian restaurants are best when dining with little kids. Maybe it’s a cultural stereotype, but I always found Italian eateries were more welcoming to the screaming, barfing and flirting that toddlers bring to the dining experience.

French restaurants? The worst.

Proponents of doggie dining often state that restaurants allow germ-spewing little kids inside so why not dogs?

Richard Vines of Bloomberg decided to check on the acceptability of children at London’s fancy foodie restaurants. Vines called 30 establishments, asking if a pair of kids aged 2 and 7 would be admitted, whether there were high chairs and about the availability of special menus. With few exceptions, each was child friendly.

Among the responses:

L’Anima: “Yes, we allow children. We have high chairs. When you come here we can arrange something with the chef.”

What if your kid hates high chairs for anything more than 3 minute stretches?

Bob Ricard: “We’re not allowing children under 10 years old. There are no special menus.”

The Ivy: “It’s fine. Any age. We have high chairs. We can adapt dishes for children.”

Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley: “Children are welcome but if kids get a bit restless and unhappy you might be asked to take them outside for a while. We can arrange a high chair if you let us know in advance. Our team can adjust the dishes for children.”

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay: “Children are welcome but babies are not recommended because the restaurant is quite small so we don’t have space for high chairs or push chairs.” What age would be OK? “I would say maybe seven or 10 years onwards. We don’t have kids’ menus but we will be able to offer something suitable.”

I find so-called fancy food is lost on little kids. They’d rather eat the crayons at Chuck-E-Cheese, although those places seem prone to violence.

The most mentioned simple food for kids was something around $7 for a bowl of pasta; who can afford that? That’s Sorenne (above, right)  in a gratuitious food porn shot with a simple bowl of rotini and a homemade tomato-veggie sauce during the U.S.-Canada hockey debacle Sunday night. Tonight, we’re going upscale with grilled tuna loins, although Sorenne will be again wearing her Ovechkin jersey (left) as Russia takes on Canada in the Olympic quarter-finals.

Cold water is fine for washing hands – soap and vigor are the critical components

“Hot water for handwashing has not been proved to remove germs better than cold water.”

That’s the conclusion of The Claim column in tomorrow’s N.Y. Times science section.

We’ve been saying for a couple of years that water temperature is not a critical factor — water hot enough to kill dangerous bacteria and viruses would scald hands — so use whatever is comfortable. Warmer water may be better at removing oils and stuff, but not the things that make people sick.

The Times story says,

In its medical literature, the Food and Drug Administration states that hot water comfortable enough for washing hands is not hot enough to kill bacteria, but is more effective than cold water because it removes oils from the hand that can harbor bacteria.

But in a 2005 report in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, scientists with the Joint Bank Group/Fund Health Services Department pointed out that in studies in which subjects had their hands contaminated, and then were instructed to wash and rinse with soap for 25 seconds using water with temperatures ranging from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees, the various temperatures had “no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction.”

They found no evidence that hot water had any benefit, and noted that it might increase the “irritant capacity” of some soaps, causing contact dermatitis.

“Temperature of water used for hand washing should not be guided by antibacterial effects but comfort,” they wrote, “which is in the tepid to warm temperature range. The usage of tepid water instead of hot water also has economic benefits.”
 

Can you wash your hands too much?

I’ve spent the summer on the east coast alongside my classmate Stephan, while we do internships for school. Though we have similar interests in veterinary medicine, we have very different philosophies about food safety. I am a bit like Monk, at times going overboard on cleanliness and my tendency to be a “germaphobe” with excessive handwashing.

Stephan represents the other side of the spectrum, more of a “the more bugs I’m exposed to, the more my immunity builds.” This is definitely a valid viewpoint. Hand sanitizer opponents say that antibacterial soaps and gels may cause more harm than good. They remove bad bacteria, but can also remove the good bacteria, the bacteria that protect skin surfaces from the bad bacteria. Antibacterials may also help breed drug-resistant bacteria.

It’s a tricky tightrope to walk. Washing your hands before eating is a good way to reduce your risk of foodborne illness, but removing too much beneficial bacteria from skin surfaces or gut can leave the body more susceptible to harmful bacteria and may cause allergic or autoimmune reactions.

The bottom line is that regular soap works great in moderation, and it should always be used before consuming food or sticking your fingers in your mouth. What kind of soap is best? I tend to lean towards the foaming liquid soap, mostly because it comes in great scents, but basically soap is better than no soap. Follow Doug’s mantra to wash your hands and don’t eat poop.

Mice Found Twice at the Movies

I’m a self-proclaimed germ-a-phobe not from a previous experience with foodborne illness, but more from reading and writing for Barfblog.  Also, Microbiology lab in undergrad taught me that germs are everywhere.  It’s enough to make someone like me crazy! I’ve become excessively paranoid about how I prepare my own food at home, and how others prepare food for me.

Last weekend I went with a group of friends to see the new Transformers movie. First thing I did once I got my ticket was check out the concessions. I decided I wasn’t interested in popcorn at the time, but then I saw something that caught my eye. There was a quick flash and a squeak as a mouse scurried from one small hole to another within the baseboards of the concession stand. Then I REALLY didn’t want popcorn.

The sad part was, I had visited the same theater two weekends before to see Angels and Demons. While chatting in the lobby after the movie, my friends and I had seen a small mouse scurry across the floor between the two holes in the base of the concession stand. I considered reporting it to the management, but we had seen a 10pm showing, so the lobby was nearly deserted afterwards, with no management in sight. I brushed it off, but the second time I saw the mouse during my Transformers visit, that was the last straw for me. I reported the mouse to a senior manager, who didn’t seem too concerned, but assured me that he would look into the problem.

I guess all I can do is report the problem, but I can’t help but feel like the staff was already aware of the mouse problem and just chose not to worry about it. Surely one of the concession workers had found some mouse droppings somewhere. Two mouse sightings within two visits to the theatre seem a bit extreme. Yet most of the ratings I found for the facility didn’t voice any complaints about cleanliness of the concessions. The only red flags were that the bathrooms were dirty, but fortunately I didn’t visit the bathrooms there.

If the staff has begun steps to rid the building of mice, I wonder how long it will take. If they haven’t done anything yet, I wonder how long it will be before someone finds mouse droppings in their popcorn.

Kiss, not handshake to avoid illness

Researchers say kissing may be safer than shaking hands.

Sally Bloomfield of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and chairwoman of the International Scientific Forum for Home Hygiene, said that a recent study published in the American Journal of Infection Control said to avoid catching flu, stomach aches, methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, salmonella or C. difficile, people should pay greater attention to good hand hygiene.

Good hygiene at home can mean fewer infections spread among family members and fewer patients demanding antibiotics. But good hygiene is more than just washing hands — surfaces that spread germs via hands such as door handles, tap handles, toilet seats and cleaning cloths also need regular hygienic cleaning.

Clothing and linens, baths, basin and toilet surfaces can also play a part in spreading germs between family members in the home, the report said.