There’s something about summer that makes us want to put citrus into every single drink. Beer? A slice of orange. Cuba libra? Lemon. Mojito? Bring on the limes.
We do it because it makes drinks taste fresh, but it’s an indulgence we should consider steering clear of. Why? Because the fruit used tends to be really dirty.
Consider this a reminder of what’s lurking in your citrus. In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, researchers swabbed lemon slices that were put into their drinks at 21 different restaurants.
They found that almost 70% of those samples produced some kind of microbial growth, and included 25 different microbial species.
The researchers wrote:
“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.”
Philip Tierno, PhD, clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine and author of The Secret Life of Germs told ELLE UK, “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.”
But despite the risks, Tierno told Elle UK he does put a lemon in his drink, but he’ll return a drink if he sees a bartender put their fingers all over the rim of the glass or use a dirty rag to clean the glass. “You have to pay attention,” he said.
You’ve been warned.