Health authorities are urging the public to wash avocados before eating them. The skin of the fruit may contain bacteria that can cause serious illness.
Disease-Causing Bacteria In Avocado's Skin
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed that the skin of the fruit may contain trace amounts of the pathogenic bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.
In 2014-2016 study that tested more than 1,000 imported and domestic avocado skins, researchers found Listeria monocytogenes on the skin of about one in every five avocados. Of the 361 domestic and imported avocado skins sampled, 64, or 17.73 percent, tested positive.
The study also tested for salmonella and listeria inside 1,615 avocados. Less than 1 percent tested positive for either bacteria.
Listeria Monocytogenes And Listeriosis
Listeria monocytogenes causes Listeriosis, a bacterial infection that sickens 1,600 and kills about 260 Americans per year.
For most people, the infection does not pose much threat even if it causes illnesses but it can be serious and life-threatening to some individuals. Pregnant women, babies, the elderly and those with weak immune systems are the ones who are most vulnerable to a serious infection.
Symptoms of listeriosis include high fever, nausea, abdominal pain, severe headache, stiffness, and diarrhea.
Why Wash The Peel Of Avocado Fruit
The FDA said that people should thoroughly wash the peel of the avocado even though no one is going to eat it because the dirt and bacteria present in the dark green avocado skin may hitch a ride on the knife and contaminate the edible fleshy part of the fruit. Scrubbing the peel and drying the fruit with a clean paper towel before slicing it can reduce risk of illness even more.
The FDA, however, said that the manner at which people commonly eat avocado such as scooping out the inside part of the fruit before eating it and consuming it very soon after opening the fruit actually helps reduce risk for contracting foodborne illness.
"These practices generally limit the amount of the pathogen, if present, that consumers may be exposed to," the FDA said.