Do You Rinse Your Lemons?


A very divisive issue.

Posted on March 28, 2017, 15:44 GMT

It has recently come to my attention that some people do a
completely absurd thing: They rinse lemons before
using them. Not just if they’re going to put a slice in a
drink, but even if they’re just going to use little juice for
say, a salad dressing.

A quick poll of friends and coworkers revealed that people
are bitterly divided on this issue. Those who rinse think
it’s disgusting that people wouldn’t rinse, and the
non-rinsers think it’s a big waste of time.

Do you rinse your lemons?

Do You Rinse Your Lemons?

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Do you rinse your lemons?

Well, when life hands me a debate about lemons, I make some
phone calls and fix myself a tall glass of sweet, refreshing
journalism lemonade.

First, I spoke to Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst for
the Center for Food Safety, an organization that
advocates a variety of agricultural issues, like trying to
keep genetically modified apples out of supermarkets and
encouraging popcorn producers to use bee-friendly pesticides.

“Yes, lemons definitely should be washed,” Hanson told me.
His reasoning was that the rind is chock-full of pesticides
that could transfer to the lemon while cutting, or transfer
onto your hands while you touch the rind. “In addition to
having pesticides on them, they also have antibiotics on
them,” Hanson continued. “Most people don’t realize this. The
EPA granted emergency use of antibiotics on citrus crops to
prevent citrus greening.” Citrus greening is a bacterial
disease passed along by bugs that has been plaguing U.S. citrus crops in the
last few years.

Hanson admits that the amount of pesticides on a lemon aren’t
exactly deadly. “Are you going to die from it? Not unless
you’re allergic to the antibiotics.”

Hmm. I know plenty of people who are allergic to antibiotics,
and I’ve never heard of anyone ever having a reaction from
eating fruit. If this sounds perhaps a little alarmist,
you’re not the only one thinking that.

Katie Notopoulos / BuzzFeed News

Lemons at the grocery store, touched by who knows how
many germy hands.

Jim Adaskaveg is a professor of plant pathology at University
of California, Riverside, who specifically studies
post-harvest fruit problems and sanitizing fruit. His career
is basically dedicated to whether or not you should rinse a

To understand if you should rinse a lemon, you first have to
understand what rinsing would actually accomplish. Are you
really washing off those pesticides and antibiotics? Nope!
“Most lemons in a supermarket are processed and treated and
ready to be consumed,” Adaskaveg explained. Fruit is washed
at a processing plant between the field and the supermarket.
After it’s washed, they’re treated with a wax and a safe
fungicide to keep them from getting moldy.

And the wax means that any trace amount of pesticide residue
is not really getting washed off anyway – at least not be a
few seconds of rinsing.

However, Askaveg still is in favor of rinsing. The reason?
Germs from whoever touched them at the grocery store: the
manager who set up the display, or a customer who
test-squeezed a few. Or even you when you touched them before
washing your hands. “The pesticides aren’t really dangerous,
even though people think they are,” he said. “The risk of any
poisoning is astronomically low compared to germs from

So there you go. Whether you believe the food safety guy or
the fruit packing professor about the dangers of potential
pesticide residue, they still agree that a rinse is worth it.
Most of all, this is terrible news for me, since it means my
husband was right. Goddammit.

Katie Notopoulos is a senior editor for BuzzFeed News and
is based in New York. Notopoulos writes about tech and
internet culture is cohost of the Internet Explorer

Contact Katie Notopoulos at

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