The Grapevine

What Is Listeria? A Good Reason To Wash Avocados Before Eating Them

Despite the overwhelming popularity of the fruit, it seems that a lot of people are not sure whether avocados actually need to be washed. Unlike apples or tomatoes, the skin of avocado is not consumed. So is there really a point?

Luckily, a new report from the Food and Drug Administration set the record straight — just in case you missed it in the midst of announcements on blood pressure drugs and tampons being recalled.  

The short answer? Yes, you should definitely wash them.

Diving into the details, the FDA decided to collect and test more than 1,600 avocados. When examining the fleshy portion of the fruit — which is the part we eat — contamination was found in less than one percent of the samples. But the same could not be said when the skins were tested.

Nearly 18 percent of the avocado skins were found to contain Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria which can cause the infection listeriosis. In the United States, around 1,600 people are infected every year while 260 people are estimated to die from the infection.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, food linked to listeriosis outbreaks include deli meats, soft cheeses, and ice cream, according to Michael Doyle, Regents Professor of Food Microbiology at the University of Georgia.

Speaking to SELF, he added that immunocompromised people are the ones at highest risk. This group includes older adults, young children, pregnant women, and those who have conditions or take medications that affect the immune system.

Do not let this scare you off from enjoying your delicious avocado toast in the morning. In case you needed a reminder, the fruit can provide numerous health benefits, rightfully deserving of all the love it gets from Americans.

These include improved digestion, healthful weight loss, rejuvenation of skin, a reduced risk of heart disease, better control of blood sugar levels, and a reduced risk of birth defects.

People must "wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking," as advised by the FoodSafety.gov website. And thanks to the risk of cross-contamination in the kitchen, this advice does indeed apply to firm produce like avocados and melons too. 

"Even if you plan to cut the rind or peel off the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit," it added.

If there is ever a heightened risk, there are recommendations on how you can be extra careful by scrubbing the avocado with the help of a produce brush. After this, you may dry the fruit with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting and eating it.

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