Beware Dirty Lemon Wedges At Restaurants

The slightly alarmist has a story about dirty lemon wedges in restaurants—apparently they’re a “witch’s brew of bacteria,” to use the hilariously over-the-top language of the video narrator, who speaks in a parody of a newscaster voice. Our favorite trick of theirs: overlaying gigantic bacteria animations on everyday objects, as you can see in this screen capture. But anyway, the point is a microbiologist from New Jersey found various bacteria on three quarters of the lemons she tested from 21 different restaurants: “The very first sample that we took was loaded with fecal bacteria.”

con_zimasprofloving.jpgProfessor Loving’s study found “25 different microorganisms” in all, and at the end of the video she says it’s “not necessarily cause for alarm” but that “you might want to be aware that the lemon slices have the potential to make you sick.”

Snopes has posted a page on the topic, saying that while the bacteria is real, the threat hasn’t been conclusively determined:

However, this study in itself doesn’t demonstrate that restaurant patrons are at high risk for contracting some serious illnesses due to food workers’ not observing sufficiently rigorous sanitary standards. For one thing, the study did not determine the origins of the microbial contaminants. The study also did not determine the likelihood of customers’ contracting infectious diseases from restaurant-served lemon wedges, nor did it cite any examples of such an occurrence. What the study uncovered, basically, is a potential problem that requires more study.

(Thanks to Paul!)

“Lemon With Your Drink? Restaurant Lemons Are Loaded With Germs” [ via Wise Bread]

“Lemon Aid” [Snopes]
“Scientific Study: Double Dipping Is As Gross As You Think It Is”
(Video capture:
(Hypothetical image of Dr. Loving: Invader Zim)


Edit Your Comment

  1. savvy999 says:

    Is Professor Loving related to Dr. Feelgood?

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.

  3. silencedotcom says:

    @Blueskylaw: When that lemonade makes you sick, sue!

    .. the new American way of life :)

  4. srhbks says:

    You know, it’s not always a bad thing for us to be exposed to germs and bacteria.

  5. That’s interesting, considering the citric acid should discourage most bugs.

  6. MDSasquatch says:

    Exactly why I don’t eat out as much as I used to; too many horror stories.

    What’s next?

  7. But doesn’t the Stoli kill all the lemon germs?

  8. baltwade says:

    @HRHKingFriday: Exactly. I wonder what part of the lemon was sampled, the skin or the flesh.

  9. MDSasquatch says:

    Lemon juice – may kill germs with its <2 pH

    Lemon peel – probably a breeding ground because of the waxy surface that is added by the growers.

    More importantly, if the $hit is on the lemon, it is probably on everything else too.

  10. apotheosis says:



    Restaurants…why is this only at Restaurants…wouldn’t all lemons be affected (err effected)?

    you know, bacteria is everywhere…EVERYWHERE!! omg..its on you right now…

    people have been living alongside bacteria for millions of years…in fact bacteria has been around longer then you have.

    go ahead and live your life in fear of dying and/or getting sick…you will one day realized you wasted it (your life that is).

  12. Anonymous says:

    much ado about nothing; the lemons have germs on them that may or may not be dangerous and you should probably not be alarmed but just aware that you might get a lemon with some germs.

    Here’s a new flash; restaurant kitchens have germs and bacteria in them and some of those germs get on the lemons.

  13. evslin says:

    lemonAIDS? Brilliant!

  14. @baltwade: Yes, and then the fact that it’s being dipped in alcohol. Well, at least for me. Maybe people who have fruity or virgin drinks should worry more.

  15. forgottenpassword says:

    SOme of the things I have seen at a fancy restaurant I once worked at …. was just unbelieveable.

    Perfect example…. the dishwashers who were supposed to clean the place at closing (wash dishes, mop floor, take out the trash etc etc) would take the big heavy rubber mats (that were on the tile floor all day long) would put them up on the counters (where food was prepared) so they could mop the floors. They also did this with the big trash cans…. the trash can’s bottoms would be in direct contact with the food preparation tables/counters.

    Another thing…. the inside of the kitchen’s bathroom door was absolutely FILTHY! It was painted white years ago and the door handle was just nasty looking (same with the light switch). They both looked like they have never been cleaned. The toilet & sink…. yes they were cleaned regularly, but the light switch & door handle area was disgusting.

  16. @srhbks: Seriously…people seem to have a zero-tolerance attitude towards any and all bacteria and germs. And yet, we are literally surrounded by them constantly, and manage not to get crippling illnesses (for the most part).

  17. dreamsneverend says:

    We need more poop in our diets.. All these pansy people who can’t handle a little fecal matter need to go live a damn biodome with Pauly Shore! Me on the other hand, I got my HEP A/B shots and are more than ready to toss a nice wedge of tart lemony goodness into my iced tea next time I eat out.

  18. Topcat says:

    The moment I start worrying about what’s on my lemon wedge, the terr’ists have won.

  19. Alexander says:

    @sotally tober: The human body is more resilient than people realize. I laugh at my brother in law because he is so damn paranoid about germs/bacteria at hole-in-the-wall restaurants yet he won’t stop going to them. I always tell him to remember his past. We both lived half of our lives in central american countries, ate the food, drank the water and we never ever got sick. Maybe our bodies have better immunity to everyday bacteria…

  20. apotheosis says:

    What about the maraschino cherries?

    Won’t SOMEONE think of the maraschino cherries?

  21. Breebot says:

    Gross. My boyfriend eats those lemon wedges. Guess I’ll have to stop kissing him. Or accept the fact that germs are everywhere and that study is silly. In situations like this, I’d like to say – “Ignorance is bliss,” otherwise I’d probably would discontinue eating at all if I worried about germs.

  22. Alexander says:

    @rainmkr: Anthony Bourdain said it best: “A little honest dirt is never an impediment to a great meal”.

  23. @MDSasquatch: Many fruits, I.e. apples produce their own waxy coating naturally.

  24. apotheosis says:


    We need more poop in our diets.. All these pansy people who can’t handle a little fecal matter need to go live a damn biodome with Pauly Shore!


    There is an Austrian doctor who has gained notoriety by advocating the picking of one’s nose and the consumption of the resulting bounty, particularly in children. Dr. Friedrich Bischinger, a lung specialist working in Innsbruck, would have us believe that people who pick their noses with their fingers are healthier, happier, and more in tune with their bodies. His argument stems from the notion that exposing the body to the dried germ corpses helps to reinforce the immune system. The good doctor feels that society should adopt a new approach to nose-picking, and encourage children to take up the habit.

  25. DeeJayQueue says:

    I wonder if they also tested the rim of the glass, the drink itself, the area around the bar where the lemon was, etc. to see what kind of bacteria and germs they could find there. I’m willing to bet that if they had they’d find a pretty even distribution of them all over everything. However in these antibacterial times, all someone has to do is say “fecal” in context to food and everyone gets in a tizzy because we know what fecal means, it means someone shit on our lemon wedges! Newsflash! There are fecal coliform bacteria on EVERYTHING. The pen in your hand, whose cap you’re chewing, every door handle in the world, every flat surface, every light switch, every toilet seat, every gear shift knob, everywhere. Nobody is going around shitting on everything. Calm it down.

  26. forgottenpassword says:


    no, but people arent washing their hands well enough. THAT’s where the fecal matter comes from.


  27. ancientsociety says:

    It’s ZIM! Hurray!

  28. Dervish says:

    @DeeJayQueue: This, exactly. What’s the baseline of bacteria population around the restaurant? Also, I love how microorganisms on lemon = you will get horribly sick. There’s no intermediate steps, there, no way.

  29. dreamsneverend says:


    Now that is my kinda of doctor!

  30. apotheosis says:


    What’s the difference between snot and broccoli?

    Kids don’t eat broccoli.

  31. theblackdog says:

    Anyone who doesn’t want their lemons can give them to me, I love them in my iced tea.

  32. apotheosis says:


    There are fecal coliform bacteria on EVERYTHING. The pen in your hand, whose cap you’re chewing, every door handle in the world, every flat surface, every light switch, every toilet seat, every gear shift knob, everywhere. Nobody is going around shitting on everything.

    Just because it’s an inevitable fact of life doesn’t mean it shouldn’t give you the heebie-jeebies.

  33. Xerloq says:

    @ancientsociety: I miss my cupcake.

  34. amoeba says:

    I could say, old news. I already read that and watched the video at Wise Bread. You should had posted yesterday Walters. But, It grossed me out! The few times I go to eat at a Restaurant, the waiter keep putting lemon in my drink, and I hate Lemon. EW!

  35. ancientsociety says:

    @Xerloq: Let’s make biscuits! Let’s make biscuits!

  36. Frogmum says:

    Ahhh. the owner of the restaurant i work for saw this video and now requires us to use tongs for the lemons/limes. But pens and checks are definitely not places germs would live.

    Two people touch your fruit. You and i. I wash my hands constantly. Dirty dirty.

  37. christoj879 says:

    I have to go with the others saying I don’t care on this one. Fecal/otherwise bacteria, in my opinion, is good for you. I’ve never had a lemon make me sick, not that I know of. And besides, I like getting water with lemon, squeezing the lemon and adding Splenda to make poor man’s lemonade.

    Check out George Carlin’s thoughts on it – []

    “The polio never had a prayer; we were tempered in raw shit!”

  38. humphrmi says:

    @srhbks: Exactly. I used to get all worked up about these reports. Then I read somewhere about the (A) millions of bacteria we ingest from everything everywhere that actually make our bodies more immune to disease, and (B) agents in our own bodies that are strong enough to kill almost anything bad.

    I don’t worry too much anymore.

  39. bobblack555 says:

    Yeah so there’s bacteria on lemons. So what. There’s bacteria on everything in the world.

    Seriously – who here has every gotten sick from squeezing a lemon into their tea.


  40. bobblack555 says:

    Ahh… I love Invader Zim.

    “I neeeed tacos or I’ll explode! That happens sometimes…”

  41. bobblack555 says:

    Oh, and one more thing –

    Doesn’t “Dirty Lemon Wedge” sound kinda kinky? Anyone?

  42. WakefulD says:

    As long as the lemons don’t come from a room with a moose, I think I’ll be ok.

  43. zimzombie says:

    Zim, you have headpidgeons. Go see the nurse before you infect the other students.

  44. MercuryPDX says:

    @apotheosis: I have heard horror stories about those because they use beetles to give them the red color (carmine – []). [shrug] I still eat em just the same.

    As to lemons, put me in the “A little everyday bacetria won’t kill you, but make you stronger” camp. Worrying about every little microbe out to get you is a sure way to wind up like Howard Hughes.

  45. MercuryPDX says:

    @bobblack555: There’s a NSFA(nyone) website around about some kind of Lemon Party that falls under that category. I’ll only tell you about it and leave it at that.

  46. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:


    Kinda reminds me of “Travelling Riverside Blues” by Led Zeppelin.

  47. Bay State Darren says:

    I hate “shock” journalism about the fact that our world is germ-infested. No shit. However, they could do an exposé on the exist of this marvel known as the human immune system. Those germs you just learned about: yeah, it was protecting you from them long before the reporter fed you this stock “news story.” It’s been working pretty damn good for me my whole life and I’ve been touching shopping cart handles and doorknobs and all their other scary breeding grounds for potentially deadly diseases. I’ve avoided the lemon wedges though, maybe that’s why I’m still alive and breathing. But something tells me I’d survive those too. Especially in the western world with modern medicine.

    [I actually came into here to make a joke about it being a “witch’s brew of bacteria” instead of a bithes brew, so it could infect us with mind-blowing improvisational jazz. The above on-topic comment was kinda accidental.]

  48. SOhp101 says:

    The lesson for today is: wash your hands often.

  49. SOhp101 says:

    @SOhp101: Oh, and who cares, still ask for lemon in your water.

  50. Zelle999 says:

    And don’t forget – germs are helpful to have around when fighting against martian invasions!!

  51. SecureLocation says:

    Jesus, what are they doing with those lemons back there in the kitchen?

  52. psyop63b says:

    @Zelle999: Or when fighting against Irken invasions, as in the image above ;-)

  53. mthrndr says:

    The problem is, these are the kinds of things that people overlook. They say, “ooh, lemon wedges” without thinking about how they are stored, etc. I’ve watched guys digging those things out of the container with their hands. They sit there all day in front of the ice tea maker, and everyone from toddlers to oldy are getting their stank all over them. Yum Yum.

  54. LoLoAGoGo says:

    It’s sooo true! The restaurant I used to work at 1. never enforced hand washing 2. never made up use tongs or forks for the lemons and 3. when you are in that much of a hurry you really don’t give a shit. DO NOT USE THE LEMONS!

  55. DeeJayQueue says:

    @apotheosis: It pretty much DOES mean that it shouldn’t give you the heebie jeebies though.

    You can’t change it, you can’t go around disinfecting everything you touch, and if you could your immune system would be so weak you would die from a cold. What’s the point of worrying about things over which you have no control?

    (because someone will bring it up eventually) Mythbusters did a test a few seasons ago about this. They set up a testing area in the bathroom and a bunch of toothbrushes, and a control, and used the bathroom normally for a month or so. After testing all of the toothbrushes they found fecal coliform bacteria on everything, including the control.

    Bottom line is that it was always there, always will be there and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you don’t worry so much about it and don’t go around Lysoling everything you touch, these things won’t make you sick. I read somewhere that bacteria make up more of your body than your actual tissue. How’s THAT for skeevy. But it was that way before I knew about it and I didn’t explode and die, so I think I’ll be fine now that I know.

  56. fredramsey says:

    Mythbusters showed the other day that fecal bacteria are EVERYWHERE. Big deal.

  57. Kilotonne says:

    Should I order fecal bacteria or “suck my d**k f**kface”?

  58. djxspike says:

    Invader Zim FTW!!

  59. mariospants says:

    Great, so now when the bitchy server comes up with a faecal-lemon slice in my drink do I send it back? Like she’s not gonna just ditch the lemon in the trash, top up my drink and reserve it to me.

  60. nevergod says:

    oh no germs, get over it.


    wasn’t there another article recently about how people need to eat more sh!t?

  61. XianZomby says:

    @nevergod: It was in Slate.  “Eat Crap: Why Americans should ingest more excrement.” []

  62. yesteryear says:

    @apotheosis: ewwwwwww!