Do you wash an avocado before you eat it? According to a recent report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you should because the fruit peel may contain traces of Listeria monocytogenes.
In a report released earlier this month, the FDA announced the results of a 2014-2016 study in which researchers tested more than 1,000 imported and domestic avocado skins for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes.
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In the end, the FDA concluded that Listeria monocytogenes was present in the skin of more than 17% of the avocados tested. Less than 1 percent tested positive for trace amounts of Salmonella.
"The findings of this task state that Salmonella may be present in avocados and that Listeria monocytogenes may be present in or in the fruit," the FDA said in the report.
Based on the results of the study, the federal agency is urging consumers to thoroughly wash the exterior of an avocado before cutting it – since the knife used to cut the fruit could transfer the bacteria to the edible part of the avocado. More specifically, the FDA recommends rubbing the outside of the fruit with a "product brush" before drying it with a paper towel or a clean cloth.
The FDA also recommends doing the same for other products, such as melons and oranges.
"Other practices associated with avocado consumption may reduce the risk to consumers as well. Consumers usually slice avocados and extract the pulp from the fruit before eating it, discarding the peel of the fruit like a banana peel or an orange peel, "the FDA added. "Consumers also often eat avocados shortly after slicing the fruit, as their pulp tends to turn brown quickly when exposed to oxygen. These practices usually limit the amount of the pathogen, if present, to which consumers may be exposed. "
Those who are exposed to Listeria monocytogenes may develop an infection called Listeriosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people develop the disease after eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
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"At low levels of exposure, Listeria monocytogenes does not cause serious illness in healthy adults. However, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems (such as organ transplant recipients or people with diabetes or cancer) are susceptible to small amounts of the pathogen, "the FDA said.
To learn more about how Listeria can affect pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, click here.