Whenever you're in a restaurant, it's a given that when you order a soft drink, cocktail and in some cases a beer, it'll come with a lovely little fruity garnish. And let's face it, that zesty kick from a lemon or a lime is tasty. However, it turns out that we might need to sacrifice this drinking staple, as scientists are now suggesting that it's putting us in danger. Seriously.
So what the heck is wrong with something that we've been consuming for our entire lives? Well, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health in 2007, almost 70% of fruit served in drinks contains some form of "microbial growth." And yes, that's as disgusting as it sounds. Worse still, when you think about it, these findings make a lot of sense.
Oh, and before you start thinking that if your drink's alcoholic, the alcohol content might save your health, it won't.
Anne LaGrange Loving and John Perz, the authors of the research paper, realized that something was up when they noted that lemon juice is often used as a disinfectant. In fact, a lot of websites even claim it can be used to sterilize utensils (it can't).
The researchers then discovered that water containing lemon juice enhances the growth of at least one type of microbe. It was then that they began to wonder how clean fruits are by the time they garnish our seemingly delicious-looking drinks.
So, like any other good researchers, they went into 21 restaurants, ordered some drinks and took some swabs from the lemon slices placed in them. What they discovered is enough to make you bring your own pre-cut slices from now on.
The drinks the researchers ordered contained 25 different species of microbes and a whopping 67% of them had some sort of bacteria, virus or yeast on them that had been left to develop into a "growth". In layman terms, this means that the fruit wasn't just contaminated, the lemon juice wasn't doing anything to stop the growth of the bacteria either.
And if you thought things couldn't get any worse, you're wrong. A mere 13% of the wedges only had a growth on the rind, which means that even if you just decided to squeeze the juice into your drink, you'd most likely still be contaminating it.
But all of this begs the question: are contaminated lemon wedges alone enough to make someone sick? Yes, yes they are.
"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," the research paper revealed.
So although the likelihood of a contaminated lemon wedge making you sick isn't known, it definitely can happen.
To find out more about the dangers of garnishing drinks with fruit, Delish spoke to Philip Tierno Jr., Ph.D. - a professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine and the author of The Secret Life of Germs.
Tierno explained how the fruity garnishes we've come to know and love are so easily contaminated, saying, "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."
In short, the fruit put in our drinks is handled a lot before it finally his our glass and because it's often kept in bowls that are filled with other fruit, the potential for contamination is endless, which is why employee handwashing is so important.
And I'm sure it'll come as no surprise to many people reading that Tierno added, "Hand washing is one of the things that's not practiced very well, especially after using bathroom facilities. There are many major studies that prove that."
And yes, while alcohol does have the potential to kill off bacteria, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, unless you're drinking a glass of pure vodka, your tipple of choice is going to offer you virtually no protection from contaminated fruit.
What's more is that pure alcohol can't kill off viruses, only bacteria, and as the study found, fruit can be infected with both. Some of the worst illnesses around come from viruses too, like the flu, which can easily turn a cruise into a tropical nightmare.
This is why it's best to avoid a fruity garnish in your drink or, y'know, be smart and bring your own from home. But, of course, you can always continue to drink fruit-filled dinks and live life on the edge - just don't complain if you get sick as a result!