Not a nacho cheese dispenser!
Not a nacho cheese dispenser!

Health Complaints Allege Icky Ice Machines and Gross Drinking Glasses at Irvine Embassy Suites

The Embassy Suites in Irvine boasts plenty of accommodations for its guests, including luxurious bedding and spacious quarters. They don't make a sales pitch to travelers looking for a place to stay with ice machines that have an oozing, moldy yellow pus encrusted around the chute or glasses that may make a person think twice before pouring a drink in their room. But that's just what multiple complaints obtained by the Weekly recently filed with the Orange County Health Department by housekeepers allege.

"I have noticed mold in the ice catchers," one worker submitted in a statement. "I brought this up with the maintenance department. They informed me that they never clean the ice machines." Judging by the photo, that seems to be the case. Earlier this month, a hotel guest took pictures of the gooey grossness and swabbed samples with a kit provided by Michelson Laboratories.

The results from testing showed that the substance contained 56,000 colony forming units (cfu) per milliliter (ml) of bacteria and 24,000 cfu/mi of mold. The Department of Health Services for California doesn't provide guidelines for ice machines in hotels, but general recommendations by the U.S. Public Health Services states that sanitized food service equipment should have no more than 100 colonies per surface area sampled.

There's more to the bacterial bonanza and moldy mania for guests at Irvine Embassy Suites. Suppose a trip to the ice machine is followed by a return to the room for drink on the rocks. Unlike other overnight lodging, the hotel offers glasses as opposed to wrapped plastic cups. Two separate complaints allege unsanitary practices sanctioned by supervisors when cleaning them--or trying to, anyway.

"I have been washing dirty glasses from the guestrooms in the guestroom bathroom. I wash the glasses with cold water and use the same cleaning agent that I use to clean the showers," a housekeeper alleges. "The hotel is aware of this practice. My supervisor checks the rooms that I have cleaned. She sometimes puts the dirty glasses in the bathroom sink so I can wash them."

In a separate complaint, another worker says that the same rags that are used to clean coffee machines and the floor are used to wipe the drinking glasses. The hotel used to provide glass racks to haul them off to the dishwasher, but the practice was discontinued in March.

The California Code of Regulations notes that multi-use (i.e. non-plastic) drinking glasses should be washed in a three compartment metal sink at a temperature of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit, with detergent and a bactericidal solution. If metal sink method isn't available then a mechanical dishwasher at 160 degrees Fahrenheit is under code. Cloth drying is not allowed and cleaning glasses in a guest bathroom sink would be a violation of the California Health and Safety Code.

Irvine Embassy Suites has been the battleground for an entrenched unionization effort including a related longstanding boycott. The hotel is owned by Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers, a subsidiary of MassMutual Life Insurance Company (insert irony here). If guests are unswayed by sympathies to labor conditions, maybe they'll check-out on their own volition if the housekeeper allegations prove to be true.

In the meantime, the Tampico Motel in Anacrime ain't looking so sketchy anymore is it!

Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz

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