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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!
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…
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)