According to the FDA, washing your avocado skin can lower your risk of becoming infected with listeria.
It turns out avocado hand isn't the only risk linked to the unofficial fruit of the millennial generation. A recent update on an investigation by the FDA reported that over 17 percent of avocado skin samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, aka listeria. (In other depressing food safety news, Jimmy Dean just recalled nearly 30,000 pounds of sausage that may contain metal.)
Of the 361 avocado skin samples the FDA tested, 17.3 percent tested positive for listeria. That number might seem like NBD since basically no one actually eats the skin, but cutting into the fruit can cause cross-contamination. According to the FDA, "Even if you do not plan to eat the skin, it is still important to wash produce first so dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce." And when it comes to "hard produce" like avocados, you should be scrubbing with a legit produce brush (not just running under water for a few seconds), according to the recommendations. So yeah, you've probably been doing watermelon, pineapple, and mangoes (which, ironically have also been recalled due to listeria concerns before) wrong, too.
As part of its investigation, the FDA also tested avocado pulp (meat) samples for bacteria. Some of the samples tested positive, but at a much lower percentage than the skin samples. Of 1,615 pulp samples, 0.74 percent tested positive for salmonella and "far less than 1 percent" tested positive for listeria. So while washing your avocado skins won't completely eliminate your risk, it'll greatly reduce it. (Use your freshly washed avo in this avocado chocolate mousse with peppermint crunch.)
To be clear, there's no avocado-borne outbreak of listeria or recall of avocados at the moment (phew). Still, taking the extra step to wash your avocados is definitely worth it, since the CDC has reported avocado-borne illness outbreaks involving salmonella and E. coli in the past—and there have been several listeria-related veggie recalls. ICYMI, listeria can cause all kinds of nasty symptoms including headaches, convulsions, fever and muscle aches, according to the CDC (and pregnancy increases your risk of infection tenfold), so it's not really something you want to mess around with in the name of avo toast.
BRB while we go buy a vegetable brush to put in everyone's stocking this year!