Tossing a lemon into your drink is tasty and healthy, right? Well, that depends.
In a recent study by the Journal of Environmental Health, the rinds of 76 lemons collected from a variety of restaurants were swabbed for bacteria. A startling 70% of them contained microbial growth. The data was collected as soon as the drinks were served, before they were touched by the person consuming them.
The exact source of the bacteria is unknown, but it is thought that the source could be from the employee who handled them, or cross contamination from poultry or meat.
Similar experiments conducted by the New York University Medical Center and commissioned by ABC News turned up even more bad news: over half of the lemons they tested were contaminated by human fecal matter. The cause: lemons are often handled with the bartender’s bare hands. While many establishments rinse the lemons before cutting them, many do not actually scrub them.
Among the specimens collected were E. coli, staphylococcus epidermidis and candida, a fungus commonly found in the vagina. While they didn’t test specifically for viruses, such as norovirus or the cold virus, this type of contamination is typically an indicator that they are present.
Similar microbes have been discovered on communal items in restaurants such as salt and pepper shakers, menus and ketchup bottles.
Now that you are completely grossed out, it’s important to note that a strong immune system may help prevent people from getting sick.
Squeezing the lemon into the glass and not dropping the whole piece in, helps to a certain extent. At home, scrub the lemon with a brush, and avoid cross contamination with other foods.
After handling shared items in restaurants, wash your hands before touching your food.
photo: Glasshouse Images