The Lemon in Your Water at Restaurants Could Be Making You Sick

Jenny Erikson Ewww!

You know how when you go to restaurants and order a glass of water, and it comes with a wedge of lemon to presumably take away some of that tappy taste? Yeah, you might want to skip the citrus next time.

In a study for the Journal of Environmental Health, researchers found that 70 percent of lemons used in restaurants as garnish were contaminated with microbial growth. They tested the rinds and flesh of 76 lemons from 21 restaurants over 43 visits, and discovered that half of them contained human fecal matter.

That’s right. That tasty lemon wedge in your water (or diet coke or iced tea) has a 50/50 chance of hosting microscopic pieces of human poop. That’s so gross.

The scientists say that the contamination likely comes from workers handling the fruit with their bare hands, cross-contamination from raw meat or poultry, or simply not washing the lemons well enough or at all.

Fecal matter isn’t all they found though -- they also came across E. coli, staphylococcus epidermidis, and candida, which is commonly found in the vagina.

Don’t completely freak out though. Philip Tierno, Ph.D, is a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU Langone Medical Center, and he says that the risks of getting sick from ingesting such trace amounts of such substances is slim. He said, "The usual course will probably result in no infection, but there is a possibility … you can't live in a bubble. Your immune system is usually pretty good."

But still. The idea of poop floating around in your drink is not pleasant -- especially at meal time.

Will you ask your waiter to hold the lemon next time you’re out to dinner?


Image via Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

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eating out, food safety, restaurants