28 Jun 2012

It Must Have Been a Lemon

By Ellen Witt and Marci Cohen

Have you ever heard the one about lemons? They say you should avoid the slices at restaurants since they are proven to contain considerable amounts of bacteria. The thought is that there are too many people touching these lemons after doing who-knows-what with their hands. And maybe they sit in a bacteria-ridden container that fills with even more bacteria throughout the day. The New York Times reports that researchers have categorized this type of bacterial exposure with a very scientific term: the “yuck factor.” In an effort to cover interesting stories, the media has contributed to a new generation of germiphobes. While these stories make most of us think twice, it is important to think once again… and with rational sensibility this time.

While the germs on lemons have been brought to our attention by the media, how about the germs in the rest of our world… that little pocket folder restaurant servers bring to your table that so perfectly holds your change or credit card, the cash and coins you carry every day in your wallet, the elevator buttons and the main entrance doors at public facilities, that rubber fitness ball at your gym, or the communal bowl of M&M’s that your favorite coworker constantly refills for pleasure and reassurance.

Our world is filled with bacteria, so why is it that the media chose to target lemons? That lemon might possibly be the most nutritious part of the average person’s meal out to eat, and now it has been doomed. Maybe it’s because lemons can’t be cleaned with Purell?

Looking back to lemons, has it ever occurred to you how the media controls our every day thoughts and fears? The Today Show and Good Morning America tell us to worry about the unlikely but potential illnesses that may result from the lemons in our iced tea, but why aren’t they doing the real, heavy-duty research to uncover more serious issues of our society… like the long-term effects, of artificial sweeteners that have become such a regular part of our diet? While The New York Times reports a stomach bug that may be a result of the germs contributing to the “yuck factor,” how about taking a closer look at what the pesticides that kills the insects trying to eat our strawberries might do inside our bodies and how that might affect our immune systems.

The key to living in our world of information overload is gaining an understanding of what to actually fear versus what is plain old media hype. We all need to start thinking beyond the concerns that others choose for us. The fact that the media has a pretty impressive hold on our every day thoughts is a fact that we must all acknowledge. But as long we think realistically, mathematically, scientifically and rationally, we can conceive the difference.

After all, like my Grandma always said, a little dirt is good for everyone (just make sure it’s organic). So, go ahead – eat that dirt and take in a little bacteria. It might do a little justice for that immune system of yours.

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