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- California-based Henry Avocado Corporation is voluntarily recalling avocados in six states (Arizona, “out of an abundance of caution” after a batch of the green fruits tested positive for listeria contamination.
- In 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set out to determine the prevalence of potentially dangerous bacteria on avocados.
- The FDA recently revealed that roughly one out of five avocados has listeria on the peel.
- Despite the fact that peels are inedible, the bacteria can transfer to the pulp when cutting into the avocado.
- The FDA recommends washing avocados thoroughly beforehand.
California-based Henry Avocado Corporation is voluntarily recalling avocados in six states (Arizona, California, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) “out of an abundance of caution” after a batch of the green fruits tested positive for listeria contamination, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Saturday.
Conventional Henry avocados in the store have a sticker on them that says “bravocado” (shown below), while the organic versions are a bit trickier to identify, as you have to take a look at the bar code.
The news comes on the heels of a recent report from the FDA, which revealed that avocado peels can contain bacteria, including listeria and salmonella.
The report is based on a two-year assessment of avocados that was conducted to determine the prevalence of bacteria on the produce. The FDA collected 1,615 samples of avocados, 70 percent of which were imported to reflect the respective US market at the time. The entire sample was tested for salmonella on the skin, and less than 1% were found to contain the bacteria.
While listeria contamination was minimal on tests of the avocado fruit, the bacteria was more prevalent on the skin. After testing 361 avocados from the larger sample, the FDA found 17% contained listeria on the skin.
This may not seem like something to worry about, as the peel is inedible. When you cut into the avocado, however, you run the risk of transferring the bacteria to the pulp of the produce. And when you look into the stats about salmonella and listeria poisoning, peel bacteria is not something you’ll want to brush aside.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the US every year. Most people who consume salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
The CDC reports that roughly 1,600 people get listeriosis – the infection the results from listeria contamination – each year, and about 260 die from it.
Symptoms of listeriosis can include muscle aches, fever, flu-like symptoms, nausea, and diarrhea.
In an effort to avoid exposing yourself to these bacteria, the US Department of Health and Human Services advised people “wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking.” With avocados specifically, you should scrub with a clean produce brush, and then dry it with a clean cloth towel.
The FDA’s report says the organization will “continue to evaluate methods to reduce microbial contamination of avocados and avocado products” as well as “sample whole fresh avocados using its longstanding approach to food sampling.”
Pregnant women and others with weak immune systems are at risk
Listeriosis can be a serious problem for pregnant women, babies, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems (like HIV, cancer, and transplant patients).
If you or a loved one is vulnerable to listeria contamination, avoid raw milk products and rare meat. In addition to avocados, listeria outbreaks have been traced to melons, sprouts, raw milk and raw cheese, cold cuts, and smoked seafood.
Washing your hands with warm, soapy water before preparing food and keeping cutting boards clean can also help. Remember that listeria grows and spreads in the fridge, so you can avoid cross-contaminating foods by keeping your refrigerator clean and listeria-free.
“If you unknowingly refrigerate listeria-contaminated food, the germs not only multiply at the cool temperature, they could contaminate your refrigerator and spread to other foods there, increasing the likelihood that you and your family will become sick,” as the FDA warns.
Leah Rocketto contributed to an earlier version of this story.