You Should Wash Your Avocados Before Eating Them

published Dec 13, 2018
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(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

Confession: I have never washed an avocado before eating it. I have never even thought about washing an avocado before eating it. That rough, thick outer shell just seems, to the naked eye, like a perfectly suitable layer of protection against disease, a far cry from the fragile leaves of say, my romaine lettuce. I’m going to start, though, and I suspect that many other people are in my position, because as it turns out, you do need to wash avocados. There’s a chance they might be contaminated with listeria.

Quartzy tells us that last week, the FDA released a report which found listeria on about 17% of all avocados it tested between 2014 and 2016. Though listeria was found inside just .2% of those avocados, you could potentially contaminate your avocado if the knife that touches the skin also touches the meat. The FDA recommends that you scrub the skin of your avocado with a produce brush and then towel dry it to ensure the avocado doesn’t make you sick.

Listeria typically isn’t deadly, but it can cause muscle aches, diarrhea, and fever. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are especially vulnerable. You might be racking your brain trying to remember if you’ve ever read about a listeria outbreak that originated from avocados, but rest assured, no such epidemic has ever been reported in the United States. Does that mean you should stop worrying and go on carelessly eating unwashed avocados? No. It’s far better to take precautions rather than risk illness, even if it means taking an extra couple minutes before eating your avocado toast. Some, though very few, cases of E.coli and Salmonella have also been linked to avocados.

This is not a rallying cry to throw out all your avocados. It’s just a reminder that your produce, like it or not, is covered in bacteria that is not good for you. You might think that it’s a one in a million chance that you’ll ever get sick from your food, but it’s a chance you don’t want to take. Wash your fruits and veggies every time.