A glass of water is a great way to hydrate and feel refreshed. A glass of water with a lemon wedge in it, is a more flavourful way to hydrate and feel refreshed. But have you ever stopped to wonder what else is going on with the lemon garnish from your favourite restaurant?
A Journal of Environmental Health study saw researchers swab the rinds and flesh of 76 lemons from 21 restaurants collected over 43 visits. The results found that 70% of them produced microbial growth.
The samples were collected the second the drink (water or soda) was served, before drinking or touching. The researchers were unable to pinpoint the origin of the micro-organisms but have believed it to be from the restaurant employees or raw meat/poultry contamination.
"Although lemons have known antimicrobial properties, the results of our study indicate that a wide variety of microorganisms may survive on the flesh and the rind of a sliced lemon," the authors wrote in their report. "Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes."
Philip Tierno, Ph.D., clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU Langone Medical Center, has conducted similar studies and found that half the lemon wedges collected from various restaurants were contaminated with human fecal matter. Tierno believes that although restaurants may be washing lemons, they likely aren't scrubbing them. And, it is easy for cross contamination from employees after dealing with patrons, washing glasses or dealing with food.
"We found in every single group of specimens from different institutions, representations from the three body sites that men usually impart their flora," Tierno told HuffPost Healthy Living
of his research. This includes bacteria from the intestine, respiratory tract and the skin. They also found E. coli, staphylococcus epidermidis and candida, a fungus commonly found in the vagina.
But don't panic just yet, the risk is real but it is also small. Tierno says, "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."
You can mitigate a bit of the contamination by squeezing in the lemon juice instead of letting the wedge soak in the beverage. But it isn't perfect, as the flesh can be contaminated too.
Although this is discouraging (and gross) news, you still don't need to panic. Some of Tierno's other research has found similar contamination of other restaurant items from menus to table tops to ketchup bottles and salt and pepper shakers. So, basically, trust your immune system. "Microbes are ubiquitous ... You're not going to escape unscathed forever," he says. "You do your best to prevent unnecessary illness."
This may be one of those things we were better off not knowing. What do you think? Does this information make you nervous or do you take comfort in knowing that fighting these things is exactly what your immune system was meant to do?
To keep your immune system healthy, you need to eat a clean, balanced diet. For help in this department, check out the BodyRock Meal Plan
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