Start Washing Your Avocados

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It could prevent you from getting listeriosis.

Avocados are the one fruit in my kitchen that I don't usually wash before using, but apparently I need to start. A report released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on December 7 said it found Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on nearly 18 percent of the outer skins of avocados that were tested between 2014 and 2016.

Even though an avocado skin may seem thick and impenetrable, cutting through it with a knife could mean dragging the bacteria into the edible inner fruit, which is how you become sick. In defence of non-washers like myself, listeria was only found on the inside of an avocado in 0.2 percent of cases, but still, is it a risk worth taking?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention think not. It says that 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, of which 260 die. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, nausea, and achy muscles, and in serious cases can cause disorientation, convulsions, and a stiff neck. Most of the time listeriosis passes within a few days, but pregnant women, children, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Listeria is found in many foods, including deli meats, hot dogs, soft cheeses, raw sprouts, smoked salmon, and unpasteurized milk.

So, what is an avocado lover to do? Start washing, and don't stop at avocados. The FDA recommends washing every piece of produce prior to eating (but not too far in advance because it can cause food to spoil prematurely).

You should “scrub firm produce (which includes avocados) with a clean produce brush, and then dry it with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.” And you should wash your hands after handling avocados, too. (via Quartzy)

Learn how to make your own veggie and fruit washes here, or just use tap water and rub vigorously with a clean cloth afterward. Be sure to clean your cutting surface, knife, and hands to ensure no further contamination.