Do You Need to Wash Avocados?

It turns out, you do need to wash avocados—unless you want to risk coming into contact with potentially harmful bacteria.

When it comes to washing produce, I always assumed the rules were pretty straightforward. If you don’t eat the peel, don’t wash it. I never bother rinsing my bananas or oranges—so why bother with avocados? Well, after reading a recent study released by the FDA—not to mention a distributor’s recent recalls—I might have to rethink that logic. Not washing avocados should be added to this list of mistakes you’re making with your produce.

Why should you wash avocados?

In December 2018, the FDA released a four-year report that studied over 1,500 avocados for bacteria. There was good news and bad news: Less than 1 percent of avocados tested positive for salmonella, but around 18 percent tested positive for listeria. That means that almost one-fifth of the fruit contain the harmful bacteria on their skin.

But I don’t eat the skin, you protest! Well, if you’re like me and you’ve been cutting into your ‘cado without washing it first, your knife could be transferring listeria from the skin to the flesh with a single slice (especially if you use the same knife to scoop). So I guess we’re washing avocados now…Here’s what can happen if you won’t wash your produce.

Is listeria actually dangerous?

It depends. Small amounts of listeria aren’t likely to cause severe illnesses in healthy adults. They’re more harmful to people with weakened immune systems, such as children and pregnant women, who might be at risk for listeriosis. Listeriosis usually reveals itself in symptoms like headaches and a stiff neck, but it’s fairly rare to actually contract. Still, people at-risk should take special care to avoid it.

How do you wash avocados?

To keep myself (and my family) safe, I’ll now be washing all of my avocados before cutting in. First, determine if the avocado is ripe. If your avocado isn’t ripe, here’s how to ripen it in 10 minutes. To clean, all it takes is one simple rinse under the water and scrub with your hands—or a produce brush, if you have one. Next, pat dry with a cloth before slicing with a clean knife. We know, we surprised you with this information—now just make sure you’re aware of these 10 other foods you should also be washing before you eat them.

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Emma B. Kumer
Emma Kumer is a marathon-runner, magazine-writer, and graphic design addict. She was a digital editorial intern for Taste of Home Magazine for Summer 2017. She is also a junior in Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.