Published on:

Restaurant Lemon Garnishes Could Lead to Illness Due to Contamination and Improper Handling

Our attorneys consistently stress the importance of consumers being able to trust that the goods and food they purchase are safe and non-defective product. Under products liability law, stores and manufacturers must inspect their products for any potential dangers, remove and fix such dangers, or warn customers of dangers and provide instructions for proper use (such as cooking chicken to proper temperatures). Where a customer becomes sick or injured from a defective or dangerous product, the company and/or manufacturer can be held liable in a lawsuit.

To keep customers safe from dangerous products, this means that the seller must also keep a clean and safe working environment, especially where employees are directly handling the products, such as in restaurants. Where a restaurant mishandles food products, a patron could become ill from contaminated food. That is why it is vital that restaurants have safety procedures in place, such as requiring employees to wash their hands, use gloves, store foods in refrigerators, etc.

However, a recent scientific food study has revealed a surprising danger in restaurants, which many customers would not think twice about as a safety issue. Shocking to many, this newly discovered danger actually lies in germ-filled lemon wedges. According to an article by the Huffington Post, lemon wedges used in restaurants as garnishes for water, diet sodas, and cocktails could actually be filled with bacteria and germs. A study done by the Journal of Environmental Health swabbed 76 lemons from 21 restaurants from 43 visits. The results of this study revealed that 70% of these lemons produced microbial growth. While the researchers cannot be 100% positive of the source of the bacteria, they hypothesize that the bacterial could have come from an employee or raw meat. It is for that reason that the researchers wish to make restaurant-goers aware that lemon slices in beverages may contain pathogenic microbes.

Of the lemon wedges that were contaminated, researchers discovered bacteria from three different body sites. First, there was bacteria from the intestines in the form of fecal matter. Second, they found bacteria from the human respiratory tract, which they believe could have come from talking, sneezing, and coughing. Lastly, they discovered bacteria from human skin. The specific contaminations discovered were E. coli, candida, and staphylococcus epidermis. Researchers also believe the presence of these bacteria mean that the flu virus could also very well be present.

In another study (reported in the same article) done between a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU and with ABC News, researchers found that half of lemon wedges they collected from restaurants were contaminated with fecal matter. Reporters also caught employees on camera handling lemons without gloves. What was also alarming here is that it is extremely easy for bartenders and chefs who are slicing fruit to cross-contaminate after dealing with a customer, washing dishes, or handling other foods.

However, it is not only lemon wedges where such bacteria has been discovered. Researchers have also found these on table condiments, like the ketchup bottles and salt and pepper. Menus and table surfaces have also turned up with these bacteria as well.

This is why hand washing and cleanliness is so vital in a place like a restaurant that is selling products that will be ingested. Unlike other products that contain warning labels for customers to use the product correctly to avoid injury, when a consumer patronizes a restaurant, they are not the ones handling their own food preparation, but are trusting company employees to abide by their legal duty to provide safe foods for ingestion. Our attorneys have experience in all areas of personal injury law and have represented clients who have suffered serious harms as a result of contaminated food. Although in most instances, a bout of food poisoning resolves itself after a few hours and in most cases does not lead to long-term health issues or lengthy hospitalizations. However, in some cases, contaminated foods can cause victims to suffer serious injury. For instance, our lawyers recovered a $4 million settlement for victims who contracted salmonella at a convention and this caused them to suffer crippling arthritic injuries. If you have become ill and suffered serious and life-altering injuries after eating at a restaurant, it is possible that your food was not handled properly and you may have a legal claim. Contact our firm for a free consultation, and we would be happy to discuss your potential case with you.