Schedule your free consultation today.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

All fields are required



(833) 330-3663

Hold That Lemon! Lemon Food Safety is a Thing

Posted in E. coli,Food Safety on December 8, 2018

Lemons are really wonderful fruits. Not only are they capable of turning into lemonade, the well beloved, classic summer beverage, but they’re also a delicious source of vitamin C which is a necessary nutrient in strengthening your immune system. This prevents you from getting colds and the flu. It’s also been discovered that drinking lemon juice mixed with warm water serves to help your digestive system, boost your energy levels, and ultimately detoxify your entire system. In addition to these things, they’re also a refreshing sidekick to go along with your glass of cold water, adding more flavor to quench your dry throat. Lemons are the perfect addition to many beverages and people order them all the time at restaurants. But only in cases where lemon food safety is a practice.

But did you know that these lemon slices might make you sick?

Lemon Health Benefits

Now, just to clarify: lemons in and of themselves are good for you. We’ve already established their high dosage of vitamin C, but here are some additional health benefits to consider!

  • Lemons support heart health. A single lemon provides approximately 31 mg of vitamin C, which is 51% of your recommended daily intake (RDI), and eating fruits that are this rich in vitamin C has been shown to reduce one’s risk of heart disease and stroke! The fiber and other plant compounds within lemons are also thought to greatly reduce heart disease risk factors.
  • Lemons help to control weight. In case you weren’t aware, lemons are commonly promoted as a weight loss food! Theories for why lemons are so great at helping reduce or maintain one’s weight are somewhat inconclusive, but some say that the soluble pectin fiber found within lemons expands when inside your stomach which helps you feel full longer. Additionally, research shows that the plant compounds found in lemon extract help prevent or reduce weight gain.
  • Lemons help prevent kidney stones. These are small lumps forming when waste crystalizes and builds up inside the kidneys. Citric acid helps prevent this development by increasing urine volume and urine pH, which results in an environment that is unfavorable to kidney stone development.
  • Lemons reduce cancer risk. The simple fact is that when a person’s diet is largely composed of fruits and vegetables, their risk for developing certain cancers is largely reduced. That being said, more research is required to identify the exact effect lemons have on cancer. Some studies found that those who consume mostly citrus fruits have a lower risk of cancer, while other studies showed little to no effect. Additionally, in test tubes, various compounds from lemons have successfully killed cancer cells–but many things are capable of killing cancer within the confines of a test tube, so there is no guarantee that the techniques will work the same exact way on a human body. Current research suggests, however, that the plant compounds and other ingredients in lemons or lemon extract have the potential to prevent cancer progression.
  • Lemons improve digestive health. Lemons are composed of 10% carbs in the form of soluble fiber and other simple sugars, and the main fiber is pectin, a form of soluble fiber that is directly linked to a large variety of different health benefits. According to research, soluble fiber is capable of improving gut health and slowing the digestion of sugars and starches, which help reduce blood sugar levels. It’s important to note, then, that much of these nutrient benefits are found in the pulp and skin of lemons, so people who simply drink lemon juice miss out on a lot of the fiber benefits.

So it’s obvious that lemons have a great deal of health benefits, but it’s also true that they are capable of making you extremely ill! Here is why…

How Can Lemons Make Me Sick?

Let’s be honest. Most instances when we become sick, we have no idea where it came from! This is why it’s highly important that you pay attention to food safety. Understanding basic food safety principles will not only help you determine where you might have contracted an illness, but it will also help you prevent yourself from getting one. So here is something about food safety you should know: lemon slices accompanying drinks in a large majority of restaurants are absolutely covered in bacteria.

Paul Dawson, professor of Food Science at Clemson University and Wesam Al-Jeddawi, and a Ph.D student in food technology, conducted an experiment in which he found shocking amounts of bacteria on the lemon wedges that we so love to have on our waters. After sampling lemon wedges from 21 different restaurants in Paterson, New Jersey, the findings were entirely disgusting! 70% of all the lemon slices tested were contaminated with some kind of bacteria or fungi. The researching team wrote, “When hands were contaminated with E. coli, the bacteria were transferred to wet lemons and ice 100% of the time. If the lemons were dry, the bacteria were transferred 30% of the time.”

This brings into question, how sanitary are the lemons found in self-service drink stations? Unfortunately, their health benefits are not any better. If the person slicing the lemons in the first place failed to wash their hands properly, then you could very well be placing someone else’s contamination in your drink. What makes this entire situation worse is the fact that bacteria tend to multiply at room temperature, so according to the researchers, “When lemons were inoculated with E. coli they increased in population over five times when held at room temperature for four to 24 hours.”

Some might wonder how this contamination is even possible, especially in professional restaurants where health should be a priority. The fact is, cross contamination is a common occurrence, and this happens when food handlers, cooks, and even waiters and waitresses handle food items without washing their hands or changing their gloves. While they might think they’re just grabbing one lemon from the bucket because their customer asked for lemon and water, what they’re really likely doing is transferring all the bacteria they’ve touched since the last time they washed their hands into the bucket of sliced lemons, which then brew in it for hours.


It’s important to understand that lemons in and of themselves are not bad for you and–when free of contamination–actually present a large amount of health benefits for you. It’s when these pre-cut fruits come into contact with some form of bacteria and then are left at room temperature for unknown amounts of time that they become dangerous to add to your water. So maybe think twice next time you eat out and you want to add a lemon to your glass.

By: Abbey Ryan Elder, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)