Contaminated Lemons and Lame PR Responses


Unless you don’t mind consuming fecal matter, step away from the lemons.

According to an ABC news report:

Good Morning America tested lemon wedges from six popular family restaurants. What they found was more frightening than refreshing. At four restaurants, GMA found the lemons were contaminated with fecal matter, including one sample that was contaminated with E. coli.

Not too surprising, as you can’t expect a lemon rind to be any cleaner than a door knob.

I got a good laugh out of the responses from Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s, whose restaurants were tested.

TGI Fridays told GMA in a statement: “As we do with all matters of safety and health in our restaurants, we took this very seriously. We immediately stopped utilizing lemons at all of our restaurants until we could investigate this matter further and review our procedures to ensure this was an isolated issue.

“We’ve taken quick, thorough and appropriate measures to rectify this situation. We have very high health and safety standards, including extensive food safety training for all team members. The health and safety of our guests and team members is our top priority.

And Applebee’s said in a statement: “Applebee’s takes these findings very seriously as the health and safety of our guests are our top priorities. We believe these are isolated incidents and not reflective across the system in our company or franchise restaurants. Nonetheless, we have reinforced our processes for produce washing, washing all of our cooking utensils and silverware and employee hygiene in all our restaurants.”

Um, sounds like a canned corporate HQ response. “Safety is our top priority.” But on the other hand, that line is not especially bad and might even be a tad bit comforting to hear. It’s just so common.

But what kind of “quick, thorough and appropriate measures” did TGI Fridays really take? Were these measures fulfilled by sending out that canned response? Sending an e-mail to managers to remind their employees to wash their hands? Setting up new cleanliness training for employees?

Applebee’s said the dirty lemons are probably just at a few anomalous restaurants, not all of them. How do they know? Did they even attempt to check before they made that claim? How did they “reinforce their processes”?

Or maybe they thought this lemon things isn’t really a big deal. Lemons are probably as dirty as everything else we touch, like chair backs, table tops, receipts and whatever else. Maybe no one’s getting sick over these lemon wedges and it’s not worth implementing a nationwide Lemon Wedge Cleanliness Training Class.

I just thought the similarity of both responses was funny. It kind of takes away from their sincerity and makes it seem like the companeis aren’t really going to do anything about the lemons.

Perhaps they were trying to politely say to the media, “No big deal. We’re over it. We’ll just try to wash our hands a few more times throughout the day. OK?”


2 thoughts on “Contaminated Lemons and Lame PR Responses

  1. how wrong can you be. You have no idea what these restaurants have done to improve health and safety through the handling of produce and other products such as lemons, and yet you attack them as if this is all a joke. If only you were in their shoes, you would know how crazy it is now at these restaurants, and all for the guests. Still, you have to be the one to bring to light and mock previous mistakes rather than helping to fix them for a better tomorrow.

  2. You’re right. I have no idea what they’ve done to improve health and safety, and I don’t think anyone could based on the general nature of the responses they gave. The responses don’t really give an indication that they did much about this particular problem (the lemons), but I also acknowledge that this may not be as big of a problem as the media make it out to be. Next time I enter a restaurant maybe I’ll bring some lemon sanitizer to help restaurants for a better tomorrow. 🙂

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