Moving on...while we again apologize for being unable to pass along any true highlights from the last couple of weeks, one shouldn't conclude that we lack anything else to talk about in this post. On the contrary, we had a handful of what I would characterize as "Seinfeld-ian" streams of consciousness about the minutiae of everyday life, which we thought we'd share. Today's topic was spurred by a recent mid-day meal at our local burrito purveyor during which we asked ourselves the following question: "Why is it that when you order a Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi/DietRC/or Diet Shasta Cola it's inevitably accompanied by a lemon wedge (even without request), yet an order placed for a regular, non-diet cola does not come dressed with a similar slice of zest?" The lemon is a nice, refreshing addition to the diet cola experience and, in our view, would have a similarly positive impact on traditional cola drinks as well. Somehow this practice seems to have embedded itself into our a dining culture and it strikes as being a bit unfair to straight up Coke drinkers and begs the question of why such an obvious inequity exists in the treatment of Diet vs. Regular cola drinkers. We were able to come up with two viable answers to the question posed, but feel free to chime in if you have other suggestions:
1) Flavor Masking: artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, etc) in diet cola formulations do produce a noticeable aftertaste, which is absent in the non-diet offerings. The addition of a touch of lemon, it's argued, somewhat offsets this aftertaste and makes for a more palatable overall flavor. Armed with this commonly held belief (and likely sick of hearing patrons requests for a lemon in their diet cola,) restaurateurs have taken it upon themselves to add a wedge of lemony zest to all diet orders, regardless of its request. However, we aver that this places an unfair, additional hurdle for traditional cola drinkers to clear in order to receive equal treatment and an equally satisfying drinking experience. That's a foul in my book.
2) Order Differentiation: adding a lemon helps the server distinguish between the unimaginably confusing situation that arises when a table places an order that has both diet and non-diet requests. The lemon, in essence, acts as tagging mechanism to help your server differentiate the beverage selections. This strikes us nothing more than a patch work solution and reeks of laziness - laziness that again results in bias against the non-diet cola drinking establishment. Stick a straw in one, take the top of the straw off one...whatever...there are clearly ways to avoid this confusion that wouldn't result in an inherent handicap against high-fructose corn syrup lovers.
In the process of digesting all this and becoming modestly enraged by the blatant and seemingly pervasive bias in our society, we were alerted to an interesting scientific study that shakes the core of our thesis and suggests, in fact, that the true loser is actually the diet cola drinking community. It turns out that those lemons are, well, rather unsanitary, according to a recently released study. Below, I recreate this seminal paper, in almost it's entirety - I've cut some of the scientific stuff out, and left you the reader with the bare bone conclusions the authors` reported. In my opinion, these results should give one pause bef0re co mingling lemon wedges in to any beverage. Lemon wedges are the modern day Trojan horse - they look harmless on the outside, but inside they may carry legions of microbes readying their stealth like attack on cold beverages and their drinkers.
Microbial flora on restaurant beverage lemon slices
|Author:||Loving, Anne LaGrange; P John|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2007|
|Publication:||Journal of Environmental Health|
Possible Origins of the Microbial Contaminants
It is not possible to definitively identify the origins of the microorganisms. While the Enterobacteriaceae and nonfermentative Gramnegative bacilli could have come from the fingertips of a restaurant employee via human fecal or raw-meat or poultry contamination, they might have contaminated the lemons before they even arrived at the restaurant. The Gram-positive cocci and Corynebacterium isolates may have been introduced onto the lemons from the skin or oral flora of anyone who handled them, before or after they arrived in the restaurant. The Bacillus species are ubiquitous and could have had numerous sources, including airborne spores landing on the fruit or on the knife used to cut the lemon.
There are three possible origins for the various yeasts that were isolated. Some yeasts commonly colonize lemons and other foods, and are classified by the food industry as "food spoilage yeasts" (Adegoke, Iwahashi, Komatsu, Obuchi, & Iwahashi, 2000). Some distributors add yeasts to lemons and other fruits in order to retard the growth of other, destructive fungi (Cheah et al., 1994; Cheah et al., 1995; Droby, Chalutz, & Wilson, 1991). Finally, the yeasts could have originated from oral, fecal, or vaginal secretions contaminating the fingertips of a restaurant employee or another food handler.
Diseases Caused by the Microbes Found on the Lemon Samples
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. An extensive search of the literature yielded no reported outbreaks or illnesses attributed to lemon slices in beverages. Establishment of an infection would depend upon the number of microbes introduced; this investigation did not include a quantitative determination of the numbers of microorganisms on the lemons. Other factors that would contribute to the establishment of an infection would include whether the organisms were resistant to multiple antibiotics, the general health and age of the individual, the status of the immune system, and the integrity of the mucous membranes of the lips and mouth.
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. Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes. 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. 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.