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- In 2014, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set out to determine the prevalence of potentially dangerous bacteria on avocados.
- This week the FDA 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.
If you’re not washing your avocados before prepping your guacamole or toast, you may want to reconsider. A new report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that avocado peels can contain bacteria, including listeria and salmonella.
The report comes from 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. Listeriosis is especially dangerous for pregnant people, as the CDC reports it can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, or infections to the newborn.
In an effort to avoid exposing oneself 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.
Additionally, 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.”
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