June 16, 2024

Consumers Warned to Wash Avocados After Pathogens Found on Skin

The FDA has released a report on avocado and hot pepper sampling, as part of  their “new, proactive sampling program,” that was adopted in 2014. The program attempts to help public health investigators identify patterns in certain foods that may help reduce microbial contamination. They found Listeria monocytogenes on 17.73% of the avocado skin samples. They found the overall prevalence of Salmonella on the samples to be about 0.74%.


That means that, if you don’t rinse the avocado before you cut into it, you will spread any pathogens on the skin into the flesh. And because this fruit is usually eaten uncooked, there is no kill step to destroy that bacteria before you eat it.

The FDA began collecting avocados in May 2015. They collected 1,615 samples to test for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. About 70% of samples were imported, and the rest were domestically grown, which is proportionate to U.S. market shares.

The FDA notice states that pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with diabetes or cancer, are susceptible to very small amounts of this pathogen.

AS part of the sampling process, the FDA found that some of the Listeria monocytogenes strains that were found on the skin and in the pulp of avocados sampled were “highly related to Listeria monocytogenes strains found in ill persons.” The epidemiological evidence, however, didn’t indicate whether those sick people ate avocados before they got sick.

Investigators found Listeria monocytogenes on the avocado skin in both domestic and imported product, but found Listeria in the pulp in imported avocados.

So, the next time you buy an avocado, wash it thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking. It also stated, “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.” In fact, firm produce, such as avocados, should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush, ten dried with paper towel to further reduce any bacteria that may be present.

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