FDA Encourages Washing Avocados Prior to Consumption

Brian GermanFruits & Vegetables

Although avocado peels are inedible, a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report calls for washing avocados before consumers prepare and eat them. Data collected as part of an FDA study found that about 1 out of 5 avocado peels carry bacteria such as salmonella and listeria.

Washing AvocadosThe report stated that “some of the Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from both skin and pulp samples to be highly related to Listeria monocytogenes strains found in ill persons.  However, the available epidemiological information did not indicate whether the consumption of avocados was implicated in the illnesses.”

After examining 361 avocado skins from both domestic and international sources between 2014 and 2016 the FDA found listeria in about 18 percent of the fruit sampled.  The fruit portion that consumers actually eat demonstrated a much lower number of listeria or salmonella bacteria occurrences, with less than one percent of the 1,615 avocados sampled containing the pathogens.  Despite avocado peels being inedible, dirt and bacteria can still be transferred from the skin to the fruit inside.  To combat the possible contamination from bacteria the FDA encourages washing avocados before consuming them.

The report notes that “Consumers commonly slice avocados and extract the fruit’s pulp prior to eating it, discarding the fruit’s peel as they would a banana peel or an orange rind. Consumers also typically eat avocados shortly after slicing the fruit as its pulp tends to brown quickly once exposed to oxygen. These practices generally limit the amount of the pathogen, if present, that consumers may be exposed to.”

The FDA has indicated that improving measures to ensure food safety would be a top priority moving forward after a series of outbreaks in recent years.   The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that approximately 1,600 people get listeriosis every year, typically after consuming contaminated food.  The CDC also estimates that salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses annually.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West