Here’s Why You Need To Stop Ordering Lemon Water Pronto

Flickr / Scrap Pile

You’ve probably heard that lemon water has its fair share of health benefits, which is absolutely true. What you may not know, though, is that the lemon wedges restaurants serve with your ice water are swarming with bad bacteria. How bad, you ask? Strap in, because we’re about to take you on a wild, germy ride.

A new ResearchGate study examined how well E. coli could survive on lemon slices that were handled and preserved in restaurants. The researchers found that lemon slices preserved in water absorbed 100 percent of the bacteria initially found on the surface of the slices while dry lemon slices absorbed only 30 percent. Yikes.

If you’re not familiar with E. coli, it’s a common bacteria found in the environment and in the fecal matter of people and animals. If you come into contact with E. coli, you could experience no symptoms, have mild effects like diarrhea or — worst case scenario — end up with disrupted kidney and respiratory function.


Another study conducted by the Journal of Environmental Health swabbed the rinds and flesh of 76 lemons from 21 restaurants to measure microbial growth. Samples were taken immediately after dry lemon slices were added to glasses of water but before patrons were able to drink from or touch the glasses.

The findings were rough. Fifty-three percent of the lemon slices had 25 different kinds of microbial growth on them. The origins of the microbial growth remain unknown, but researchers speculated that, based on the nature of the different bacteria, the majority of them likely came from restaurant staff members as well as raw poultry and meat prepped in the kitchen near the lemons.

Based on this evidence, you might want to chuck your lemons out the window. We wouldn’t blame you, but just know that the amount of microbial growth present doesn’t directly correlate to how sick you can get from it. Reports say that, in most cases, your immune system will do a good job of thwarting the bad bacteria. Just be aware of the risks and, if you can, steer clear of lemon water at restaurants because you likely face a higher risk of getting sick when more hands have touched the lemon and that lemon has come into contact with other foods.

Take a breath. Trust your gut (literally) and your immune system to keep you safe. But also order your water sans lemon.