Did You Know | Health

Here's Why You Should Never Ask For A Slice Of Lemon In Your Drink

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Lemons are great.

They're a rich source of vitamin C, which is just what you need to strengthen your immune system and prevent yourself from catching the cold or flu.

It has also been found that drinking lemon juice with warm water helps to aid digestion, boost energy levels, and detoxify your system.

In cold water or club soda, lemon wedges are not only refreshing, they also add more flavor to the drink while quenching your thirst.

So whatever season, lemons are the perfect addition to your drink.

There's just one problem. Some lemon slices may be making you sick...

When we get sick, most of the time we have no idea where it came from, which is why paying attention to food safety is important.

An experiment conducted by Paul Dawson, a professor of Food Science at Clemson University and Wesam Al-Jeddawi, a Ph.D student in food technology, found that lemon slices in drinks offered by many restaurants are covered in bacteria.

By sampling lemon wedges from 21 restaurants in Paterson, New Jersey, the researchers discovered that nearly 70% of lemon slices were contaminated with bacteria or fungi.

"When hands were contaminated with E. coli , the bacteria were transferred to wet lemons and ice 100% of the time," they wrote in an article for The Conversation. "If the lemons were dry, the bacteria were transferred 30% of the time."

Self-service drink stations aren't any better.

If the person who cut the lemons did not wash their hands beforehand, you could just be placing a contaminated piece of fruit in your drink.

What's even worse is that certain bacteria can actually multiply when at room temperatures.

"When lemons were inoculated with E. coli they increased in population over five times when held at room temperature from four to 24 hours," they wrote.

If you thought lemon wedges were bad, you've heard nothing yet.

Not everyone opts to put lemon slices in their drink, but most of us ask for ice on a hot summer's day.

These food scientists found that more bacteria is transferred to ice from hands (67%) or scoops (83%).

These findings aren't meant to make you swear off asking for lemon wedges or ice in your drink, but it's important to be aware of the cleanliness of a restaurant before you put yourself at risk of getting sick.

Here's how you can protect yourself:

Alan Taege, an infectious disease specialist, told Cleveland Clinic that people should keep a watchful eye on staff.

“If you’re at a bar or a restaurant and you see people behind the counter handling wedges with their bare hands, that may be a good sign not to have a lemon or lime in whatever it is you’re going to drink,” he said.

If you have a weak immune system, Taege suggests to be even more cautious.

“I would suggest that you only consume drinks from a bottle that you know is sterile.”

[H/T: Cleveland Clinic / The Conversation]

Do you make the mistake of asking for lemon slices or ice in your drink?

Moojan has been a writer at Shared for a year. When she's not on the lookout for viral content, she's looking at cute animal photos. Reach her at moojan@shared.com.