February 29, 2008, - 4:12 pm

Fecal Germ Magnets: Stop Ordering Lemon Slices With Your Drink

By Debbie Schlussel
If you’re like me, and you like ordering lemon slices with your drinks at restaurants, bars, etc., it might be a good idea to stop. After reading this, I won’t ask for them any more. In fact, I’ll ask that they NOT be used.
A science professors study of 76 lemon slices from various restaurants found that 53 of them harbored harmful germs, including those associated with fecal material. Poop in your drink? Eeuuww!:

Who knows whether these lemons have been handled using sanitary procedures? Anne LaGrange Loving, a professor of science at Passaic County Community College, decided to find out.


Loving began her investigation after she saw a waitress’ fingertips dip into her soda as the drink was being brought to her table. Although lemon juice is known to kill germs, Loving devised a study to determine whether lemon slices contain germs when they are served to customers.
Using sterile collection swabs, Loving took two samples from each of 76 lemons that were served in restaurants in North Jersey. Patrons normally start to drink a beverage moments after it is served, so samples were taken right away, before a sip was taken and before anyone at the table touched it. One swab was rubbed along the rind, while a second was rubbed along the pulp. The restaurants were unaware that she was doing this. Samples were then analyzed for microbes at a clinical microbiology laboratory.
A total of 25 different types of germs were found on 53 out of the 76 lemons that were sampled. Some were fecal in origin (either from dirty fingertips of the restaurant employees, or from meat-contaminated cutting boards and knives), while others were types commonly found in saliva, on the skin and in the environment.
One sample had six different microorganisms on it, three of which are found in fecal material.
Although some lemon slices had germs either only on the rind or only on the pulp, 29 percent had germs on both sites. In 15 instances the germs on the pulp were completely different from those on the rind, indicating that the pulp had been in contact with a contaminated surface as or after it was sliced. Sometimes when more than one lemon was sampled during a single restaurant visit, different germs were found on each.
Although there have been no reported outbreaks of illnesses attributed to lemon slices in beverages, every microorganism that was recovered had the potential to cause a variety of human infections.

This gives the saying, “Think before you drink,” a whole new meaning. GUH-ROSS!

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9 Responses

I wonder how many of these restaurants employed illegal aliens who never had to meet any health requirements to invade our country?

c f on February 29, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Debbie, I occasionally get a lemon slice in a beverage, usually a diet coke. I suspect everything in restaurants is covered with a very thin veneer of feces, and this study could probably be reproduced on the lettuce or tomatoes or egg salad. Maybe on our first date we should just go bowling.

Anonymous1 on February 29, 2008 at 10:35 pm

I hate to say it, but fecal contaminants are quite ubiquitous. I would prefer to have a high level of the lemon’s citric acid in my drink to kill what else may be lurking there. Enjoy your drink with lemon, but just squeeze the juice in and DO NOT submerge the lemon in your beverage. Squeeze and discard, my friend. <(Wow, that could apply to all sorts of lemons….)

cngerms on March 1, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Debbiela, it gets WORSE. A high school science fair project (I wish I had never heard about) determined the ice in those fast food restaurant dispensers was a half dozen times more bacteria laden than the toilet water in the same establishments. They are filled bare-handed from the ice machines, often by people who are otherwise not directly involved in food prep.

poetcomic1 on March 1, 2008 at 3:35 pm

I learned in school you can’t avoid microbes. They are everywhere. Just be careful and maintain a good immune system.

mindy1 on March 1, 2008 at 4:30 pm

After eating and using lemons for the last thirty years I suffer from great health, I am assuming that shit is good for me and I won’t stop messing with lemons. In fact I may once again start to mess with pigs and cows.

Howard on March 1, 2008 at 6:23 pm

That’s wierd because lemon juice is used to kill bacteria in Hollandaise Sauce and Shrimp Coctails. Hollandaise is mostly raw egg yolks.
I don’t drink fountain soft drinks because fountain dispensers aren’t properly cleaned. Look closely and you can see fruitfly swarms.

supercargo on March 2, 2008 at 2:02 am

I thought that was part of running a restaurant–to spray as much of your food with feces as possible. No surprise to me.
NOTCH!! Come on now. I am all for cleanliness, and I disqualify possible places to eat based on whether they seem clean (what are you going to do–stop each employee and test their hands–and every bit of food?). These articles, like the scary one I’ve seen on hotels’ less-than-sanitary cleaning practices just serve to keep us looking for confirmation that we’ve chosen a clean operation each time. This will help to me to leave a questionable looking place sooner–usually the condition of the rest room is easiest place to see their standards.
After all this, if the cook or wait staff want to insert the lemons in their rear ends before serving what are you going to do? They may have spit in your water without lemons anyhow, right?
Other than that, I suppose we can boycott all dealings with the public — there is no other way to prevent exposure to bacteria.

BB on March 2, 2008 at 8:26 am

This is largely because employees with dirty hands handle the lemons.

JasonBourne81 on March 3, 2008 at 1:04 pm

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