Should you skip the lemon wedge next time you eat out?

Former inspector says you may want to skip adding slice of lemon to drink

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NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Adding a slice of lemon to your water may be healthy, but that may not be the case if you're at a restaurant.

Lemon slices can add flavor and zest to your drink, but food scientists at Clemson University found that bacteria and viruses on some wedges could make you pucker up and cringe.

A former health inspector advises that you may want to skip lemon wedges or cocktail garnishes next time you eat out.

So how do you know whether the slice of lemon that's going in your water is actually safe?

News4Jax went to North Beach Fish Camp in Neptune Beach to find out. As a former state inspector, Jessica Tyree knows all about food safety. She's now the owner of Restaurant Compliance Solutions, a business that consults restaurants. 

Tyree said it all depends on how those garnishes are handled. 

"They should be washing their hand and putting gloves on before they cut the lemons," she said.

Lemons are considered a "ready-to-eat" food, which means they're going right from the server's hands to your drink.

"When they serve the lemons, they should also be using tongs or a fork or something like that," Tyree said.

If you're concerned about freshness and how long those lemons on the counter have been sitting out, Tyree said not to worry. 

"It's not normally something that's going to make somebody sick," Tyree said. "Lemons, technically, don't have to be held at a certain temperature. They just probably do get slimy if they're not held cold enough or if they're sitting on their own juice for a long time."

The same goes for other fruits or garnishes served at the bar. 

"There are some fruits that you have to keep at a certain temperature, but, most fruits, you don't," Tyree said. "So the temperature isn't what matters, it's more about how they're handling it."

As of Tyree, she said she never adds lemons to her water.