Researchers reveal the one drink that you should never order in a restaurant
For the germaphobes amongst us, going to a restaurant is always going to be a particularly trying experience. You have to eat food cooked by people who may or may not have washed their hands after their last trip to the bathroom, use cutlery that's been passed through at least a dozen other customers in the last 24 hours, and drink from glasses which - if you look close enough - occasionally still have the odd stain on.
Unfortunately, if you are one of those people that experiences mild panic whenever anyone says, "let's just grab something from the nearest restaurant", this isn't going to make you feel any better.
A recent study into restaurant hygiene found that one drink was far more likely to contain harmful bacteria than others. If you had to guess, you'd probably say tap water, right? Well, you're sort of correct - but almost certainly not for the right reasons.
Scientific research shows that the drink with that contains the highest amount of germs is pretty much anything that contains a lemon slice. So that could be a glass of water, a Coca Cola, or - depending on how you take it - a classic glass of lemonade. But how likely is it that you'll actually encounter something harmful in your beverage?
Well, out of the 21 restaurants surveyed in the study, 70 per cent of the lemon slices tested "produced microbial growth", and "a total of 25 different microbial species were recovered from the samples."
While the study could not determine the source of the bacteria, it would make sense that the presence of microbes comes as a result of bar and restaurant staff cutting up lemons in advance - often right at the beginning of a shift - and storing them for later use. After being handled and then stored at room temperature, the citrus fruits become ideal environments for bacteria to manifest and grow.
It turns out that other fruits and garnishes could be at risk, too. In the conclusion of the paper, the researchers note that, "It could also be worthwhile to study contamination on other beverage garnishes, such as olives, limes, celery, and cherries, and to investigate whether alcoholic beverages have an effect not seen with water and soda."
The study also pointed out that, "Although lemons have known antimicrobial properties, the results of our study indicate that a wide variety of microorganisms may survive on the flesh and the rind of a sliced lemon."
However, after all this, it turns out that the odd slice of lemon in your drink probably won't cause any major issues. The study rounds off by saying:
"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."
So, there might not be any threat at all. Needless to say, I'm not really going to pay much attention to the slice of lemon in my gin and tonic - but I will still be checking the glass for lipstick marks.