Do you wash an avocado before eating it? According to a recent US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report, because the skin of the fruit may contain trace amounts of Listeria monocytogenes, you should.
In a report released earlier this month, the FDA announced the results of a study 2014-2016 where researchers tested more than 1,000 imported and domestic avocado skins for the incidence of Listeria monocytogenes.
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In the end, the FDA concluded that Listeria monocytogenes were present on the skin by more than 17 percent of the tested avocados. Less than 1 percent tested positive for trace amounts of salmonella.
"The results of this task confirm that Salmonella may be present on avocados and that Listeria monocytogenes may be present on or in the fruit," the FDA said in the report.
Based on the results of the study, the Federal Agency encourages consumers to thoroughly wash the exterior of an avocado before cutting into it – as the knife used to cut into the fruit, transfer the bacteria to the edible portion of avocado. Specifically, the FDA recommends scrubbing the outside of the fruit with a "produce brush" before drying it with a paper towel or clean cloth.
The FDA also recommends doing the same for other products such as melons and oranges.
"Other methods of avocado consumption can also reduce the risk to consumers. Consumers generally kill avocados and extract the fruit pulp prior to eating it, discard the peel of the fruit as they would banana peel or an orange skin," the FDA added. "Consumers typically also eat avocados shortly after cutting the fruit, as its pulp tends to brown quickly when exposed to oxygen. These methods generally limit the amount of the pathogen if it is present that the consumer may become exposed to. "
Those exposed to Listeria monocytogenes may develop an infection called Listeriosis, according to the Center 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 do not cause serious disease in healthy adults. However, pregnant women, older adults and those with impaired immune systems (such as organ transplant recipients, or people with diabetes or cancer) are susceptible to small amounts of the pathogen," FDA says.
To read more about how Listeria can affect pregnant women, older adults and those with weakened immune systems, click here.