Fecal Bacteria on Lemon Wedges

A video on youtube discusses a recent study that claimed to find all kinds of harmful microorganisms, including fecal bacteria, on the lemon wedges restaurants place in drinks. Microbiologist Anne LaGrange reported that when she tested some lemon wedges "it was like they had dipped it in raw sewage."

Apparently the problem is that restaurant workers often handle the wedges with their bare hands and they cut the lemons with knives they may have just used to cut meat.

David Emery of About.com has analyzed the claims in this video and finds them to be basically true. There was a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health in December 2007 which found significant microbial content on a high percentage of lemon slices from twenty-one different restaurants.

However, David also notes that health experts don't consider dirty lemon slices to pose much of a risk to public health. But if you're freaked out by the idea of germs, you might want to say no when your waiter asks if you want lemon in your drink.

Food Gross

Posted on Fri Feb 29, 2008


I have never understood lemon wedges in water. If you want lemon so bad, just order lemonade. If I order water I always say, "No lemon,". It is pretty gross, though.
Posted by Maegan  on  Fri Feb 29, 2008  at  05:09 PM
Doesn't that mean that the meat's covered in fecal material?
Posted by tess  on  Fri Feb 29, 2008  at  09:55 PM
Hahaha I work at a major chain restauraunt (the largest casual dining restauraunt) and have also worked for most of the other top 10 (think restaurants named after fruit+bugs and days of the week), and haha the lemons are the least you need to worry about. If you go out to eat at a busy restaurant on a friday night, trust me - all health code rules go out the door. I have been in the business almost 20 years and most of the places I have worked would make you never want to eat out again if you saw the kitchen. Cooks who never wash their hands or change the one pair of gloves they wear all day, grabbing raw chicken then putting that same gloved hand into the bin of french fries. Garbage all over the floor and counters, just a total disgusting mess in general. Now when you go out to eat at 3pm on a wednesday afternoon your odds of a clean meal are a little better, but when the pressures on, the business is boomin - the managers are so worried about trying to get the food out quickly that for the most part sanitation is non existant. Next time you think you have the 'flu" think to yourself, "did I eat out last night?". Good chance its mild food poisoning if you did!

Not trying to scare you all away, but that really is the honest to god truth, you're almost better at a fast food place because then at least you can see the kitchen and the people making your food.
Posted by dave  on  Sat Mar 01, 2008  at  08:20 AM
MythBusters tested this several years ago. They did the tests with toothbrushes placed around a bathroom and then a control in the kitchen. It turns out, about the same amount of fecal bacteria was on every toothbrush, including the one in the kitchen. Basically they determined that there is no way to avoid some amount of fecal bacteria on everything. Therefore, this isn't that surprising.

Posted by Salamander Sam  on  Sat Mar 01, 2008  at  12:21 PM
Yeah, those sorts of bacteria are generally all over the place. Test most things (within reason) in a house or business and you'll likely find some. Along with all sorts of other much more nasty things, like anthrax spores or whatnot. It's not their presence itself that's the worry, but rather the quantity of them.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Sat Mar 01, 2008  at  05:39 PM
Snopes did this

Posted by Nona  on  Mon Mar 03, 2008  at  05:41 AM
You always see these tests finding the "presence of", and not really comparing it to how much you'd need to be harmful, or how much is on other things you encounter every day. The world is incredibly dirtier than we like to think it is. Studies like this just play on that lack of understanding for publicity and research dollars.

Everything you touch has fecal coliforms on it; deal with it.

I just roll with it. The more potentially harmful microbes I ingest in less-than-harmful doses just improves my chances of surviving a harmful dose someday. I don't go around licking garbage cans, but I try not to get too stressed out about making everything sterile.
Posted by Crazy Ivan  on  Mon Mar 03, 2008  at  09:31 AM
im doin dis 4 my science project it is an easy A sweet huh i saw the video and i have seen them all put the lemons in the drinks and it is so gross if they didnt wash there hands or somthin :gulp:
Posted by nikizzle  on  Tue Mar 18, 2008  at  05:27 PM
is anyone there cause the last comment posted was march 3 of last year so probably no, right?
Posted by nikizzle  on  Tue Mar 18, 2008  at  05:28 PM
did anybody else notice that 77% isn't the same as 2/3?
Posted by sizzle  on  Thu May 08, 2008  at  03:44 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.