What Drinks Should You Avoid?


Are you really going to squeeze that lemon into your drink? In one microbiology study, 69.7 percent of lemon slices produced bacterial, either from the rind, the flesh, or both. The bacteria, found on the lemon samples, all cause infectious diseases.

Beware of the ice? Thirty per cent of ice samples were found to have unsatisfactory levels of stool bacteria in one study. In another study, from Indiana, of the 13 of the 25 bars and restaurants tested, at least one ice sample tested positive for the presence of stool bacteria.

Think those soda drinks are clean? Researchers from Virginia tested 90 soda fountains and analyzed them for bacterial contamination. They found many of the beverages were contaminated. Stool bacteria were detected in 48 percent. The potentially deadly bacteria, E. coli was found in 11 percent of the tested drinks.

Remember when traveling in sparsely populated areas, the restaurant or bar may be using local well water. Approximately 15 percent of Americans rely on private drinking water, and these supplies are not subject to EPA standards. While it may be great water, it may not be to the cleanliness standards of a larger community water system.

Do you drink unpasteurized milk? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800 people in the United States have gotten sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk since 1998.

Finally, how about those healthy fruit drinks? In the last 10 years in North America over 1,700 people have fallen ill after consuming juice and cider. Most of these outbreaks involved unpasteurized drinks such as apple cider, orange juice and lemonades. Other fresh fruit juice outbreaks included pineapple, carrot, coconut, cane sugar, banana, acai and mixed fruit juices (source: CSPI, Outbreak Alert!).

After reading this list you might wonder whether anything is safe to drink. We can never be 100% confident but we can be cautious and careful.

When dining out consider drinking bottled or canned drinks you pour yourself. Definitely avoid lemons and unpasteurized fruits and milk.

Beyond these precautions enjoy your drink and the moment.


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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