PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) – If you're one of the many people who ask for a lemon slice when you order a drink, this 3 On Your Side investigation might cause you to rethink the habit. "My first thought was I'll never order lemon in my drink again," said Dr. Robin Cotter, a biologist at Phoenix College.
3 On Your Side teamed up with Phoenix College biology students to collect samples of the lemons several central Phoenix restaurants put in their drinks. "We just went in as normal customers and asked for a cup for some water or a drink," explained Roberto Martinez, one of the students.
[WATCH: The experiment]
Once they had several lemons, the students took them back to their lab and swabbed them to see what might grow in a petri dish. "We put those lemons in a broth, kind of like chicken soup for bacteria, to see what was brewing," Cotter said.
The results were surprising. Out of five Valley restaurants, lemons from two of them came back positive for bacteria, most likely E. coli and salmonella, both of which can make you sick.
The lemons collected from the other three restaurants came back without any bad bacteria at all, and there may be a reason for that.
"Two of the five had the lemons in an open area where customers themselves could reach in to obtain a slice of lemon," Cotter said. "And that may be reason to pause and think twice before you choose to put that lemon in the drink."
You don't have to avoid lemons completely, according to Cotter. "Give it a quick squeeze, but don't drop it in your drink," she advised.