Listeria is rare but dangerous
A new federal Food and Drug Administration report advises consumers to wash avocados before preparing and eating them - even though the avocado peels are inedible.
An FDA study found about 1 out of 5 avocado peels carry bacteria, including listeria, which can cause a serious food-borne illness, according to the report. Researchers also found salmonella on some avocado skins.
While avocado peels are inedible, dirt and bacteria can be carried from the skin to the pulpy fruit inside by knives or hands, reported the FDA.
Common practices such as discarding the peeled skin and consuming the avocado quickly to prevent browning do provide some protection, the study noted. But it suggests consumers wash avocados thoroughly, preferably with a clean produce brush, before cutting them.
The FDA examined 361 avocado skins from domestic and international sources from 2014-16 for the study. The agency also examined the fruit inside 1,615 avocados, finding that less than 1 percent contained listeria or salmonella bacteria.
About 1,600 people contract listeriosis each year, normally by eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, reported the Centers for Disease Control. About 260 die each year.
Salmonella infects 1.2 million people each year, resulting in 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths, according to the CDC. Both food-borne illnesses can cause high fever, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, reported the CDC.