Think twice before adding a lemon slice to your alcoholic drink.

Lime with your vodka, lemon with your gin, either with a nice cold beer – citrus slices and alcohol are like a match made in refreshing heaven.

But while they might taste delightful, there’s news going round that’s making us reconsider our Saturday night usual.

Your fruit wedge could be harbouring some serious nasties.

“Unfortunately, several studies have found a significant number of bacteria on those slices that can cause illness and disease, and most of them are typical of what you may find when people handling them don’t wash their hands well,” said infectious disease specialist Alan Taege, MD.

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health had researchers swab lemon slices at 21 different restaurants. 70 per cent of the samples showed some sort of microbial growth, including 25 different species. (Post continues after gallery.)

“The microbes found on the lemon samples in our investigation all have the potential to cause infectious diseases at various body sites, although the likelihood was not determined in this study. Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes,” the researchers concluded.


According to Philip Tierno, PhD, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine and author of The Secret Life of Germscontamination from skin, respiratory secretions and even fecal matter can be found on the fruit’s skin.

Frequently found bacteria include E.coli, staph, enterococcus and norovirus- not exactly free additions you want in your beverage. And even rinsing the fruit before use doesn’t eliminate the problem entirely.


Image: iStock

"People are touching the lemon in your glass, handling it, cutting it, placing it in a container or a cup, or a glass; and then picking up those slices at a later point in time and dropping them into a drink and putting them on the rim of a glass. You can easily see how those lemon slices and lemon wedges can be contaminated," he told ELLE

While alcohol can technically kill some of the bacteria, it only applies when if it's served straight. If diluted with mixers as most are, it loses that ability.

So what to do?

Dr Taege advises keeping an eye on how your drink is being prepared. If the fruit is being handled by staff with bare hands, think about giving it a miss.

"However, if they are wearing plastic gloves when they handle them or they use little tongs to put them in the glass, then the risk is much lower for those slices to be contaminated with bacteria," he said.

If you're really concerned, you could bring your own in a little bag or forgo entirely and choose something from a bottle. Wine, anyone?


h/t: Elle Magazine

Image: iStock