Avocado lovers, we’ve got important news for you: A new report from the Federal Food and Drug Administration recommends washing your avocados before slicing them open to eat.
About 18 percent of the avocados sampled by the FDA had a type of listeria present on the peels. While the avocado peels are inedible, bacteria from the peels could potentially be transferred inside to the avocado’s pulp via knives or your hands.
The bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes, does not cause severe illnesses in most healthy adults. But it can cause sickness in pregnant women, older adults or people with weakened immune systems, like organ transplant recipients or those who have diabetes or cancer. Salmonella was also found on avocado peels, but on fewer than 1 percent of the fruits sampled.
Here are some avocado washing tips from FoodSafety.gov:
- First, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before preparing any produce.
- Thoroughly wash all produce — including avocados — under running water before cutting or cooking.
- With firmer produce, such as avocados, scrub with a produce brush, and then dry it with a cloth or paper towel to further eliminate potential bacteria.
The FDA also noted that extracting an avocado’s pulp and tossing its peel like you would a banana peel or orange rind prior to eating the fruit reduces bacteria risks. Also, eating the avocado shortly after slicing it reduces the risk of being exposed to pathogens.
About 1,600 people get listeriosis every year — which is usually caused by eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes — and about 260 people die from the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the past, listeria outbreaks have been more commonly linked to soft cheeses, celery, sprouts, cantaloupe and ice cream. Pregnant women with listeria can experience flu-like symptoms, while symptoms in non-pregnant individuals include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions, in addition to flu-like fever and muscle aches.
Up until now, had you been in the habit of washing your avocados’ peels?