There’s nothing like listening to news tidbits on hit radio. They’re short, fill dead air and usually are worded to get some kind of personal response in the listener. When it comes to the “Eww” factor, they frequently rely on…

germs(or at least germophobia)

I received a question based on one of those germy radio news hits and just had to write about it. As you might expect, the story involved the presence on germs on an object known to be in almost every restaurant or bar…

 lemon-waterThe Lemon Slice

We’ve all seen lemon slices and most of us have been served them. Some may have decided to suck on them and enjoy the shock of sour taste. They are a part of everyday dining life and their reputation should never can be sullied.

Yet according to the reports, this wonderful garnish is a hotbed of germs, including…you guessed it…fecal bacteria.

monkees-nope(admit it, you reacted just like Micky here)

While this story has all a hit radio station needs, the question still remains…can lemon slices at the restaurant or bar really make us sick?

And the answer is…

no(this guy is far more pathogenic)

For the last ten years or so, this story has made the media rounds and seems to have been resurrected. It’s the perfect mix of shock and awe with a perfect dose of ickiness. However, while the “Eww” might be strong, the evidence isn’t.

The basis for all these stories is a study done almost ten years ago. It was called, not surprisingly,  “Microbial Flora on Restaurant Beverage Lemon Slices.” If you want to read the paper, you can simply click on the title.

The study examined a total of 76 lemons from 21 restaurants over the course of 43 visits. While this may seem rather low in terms of numbers, the authors did point out that they collected the samples, “surreptitiously without the knowledge of the restaurant staff.”


The slices were taken back to the lab, swabbed and allowed to grow. If any colonies formed, they were identified and logged. It was standard, run-of-the-mill swab and culture microbiology intended to prove bacteria were present.

While the study did find bacteria, some of which were indeed related to fecal matter, the numbers were so low they did not pose a risk. In fact, none of the samples revealed any warning signs for trouble. The best the authors could do was state,

“Further investigations could determine the source of these microorganisms, establish the actual threat (if any) posed by their presence on the rim of a beverage, and develop possible means for preventing the contamination of the lemons.”

In other words…

kenobi(no Jedi mind trick needed)

If you are still wondering how the lemons became contaminated, most of the species were environmental and as such probably came from the air and possibly water spray. But those fecal bacteria would have needed a vehicle to transport them from loo to lemon. As to what that mode of transport might be, perhaps this petri dish will offer insight…

handprintGuess The Sample!

Perhaps this reality of improperly washed hands might make a more interesting news tidbit than the lemons. It would certainly get the “Eww”s going but more importantly, the information could possible improve hand hygiene at the same time.

That surely would be a win-win for everyone.