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December 18, 2018

Despite their 'protective' skin, you should totally be washing avocados

Traces of Salmonella and Listeria were discovered in the fruit and on the skin

Prevention Bacteria
avocado pexels Peter de Vink /Pexels


While the avocado craze — during which there needed to be avocado on pretty much everything consumed — has dissipated, these healthy fat-filled fruits have become a staple in most kitchens. 

As one of the most reached-for items in your kitchen, you should be filled in on one little fact: you should 100 percent be washing the outside of avocados before slicing into them. Why? The same reason you wash all other produce — their skin is covered in harmful bacteria.

While the juicy green flesh of an avocado may seem to be protected by its outer skin, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered via a test of domestically grown and imported avocados that the skin of an avocado is not enough barrier to protect against harmful bacteria. 

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When analyzing the skin of 361 avocado samples, 64 of them (18 percent) contained Listeria — a serious infection that causes 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths every year. In 1,254 samples of the pulp you actually eat, 3 (less than one percent) were positive for the same species. Twelve of the skin and pulp samples (nearly one percent) were found to be positive for Salmonella, Well and Good reports.

Sure, these percentages are fairly low in terms of negative outcomes from contaminated avocados, but the risk is there. Especially since washing our beloved avocados is far from common. 

According to the FDA’s foodborne illness expert Glenda Lewis, produce — whether it’s fruit or vegetables — can easily become contaminated from the soil it grows in and harmful substances in the water to poor worker hygiene, per Well and Good.

To make sure your relationship with avocados isn't put to the test, Lewis recommends first washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, then gently scrubbing your avocado under running water with a clean vegetable brush. Afterward, dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel before slicing.

In fact, in light of the many E.coli outbreaks and various other recalls, it is important now more than ever to be diligent in cleaning all produce — lemons, bananas, grapefruit, basically any produce that has a peel you don’t normally eat, even onions, Insider reports. If the outside of a piece of produce is covered in any sort of bacteria and you don't wash it, that bacteria coats your knife and transfers to the part you eat.

And just in case you were wondering about fruit in cans, the same rules apply. Wash those produce cans and jars before opening them so harmful bacteria doesn’t get into the food from the lids. Bacteria is sneaky that way. 

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