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Do you really need to wash avocados? This FDA warning is surprising home cooks

The thick skin on the popular green fruit may contain harmful bacteria.
/ Source: TODAY

Avocados are undeniably awesome, but it turns out that this versatile green fruit isn't perfect. The thick, dark-green skin that keeps the tender fruit inside safe may not be edible, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be washed before you start making guacamole or avocado toast.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report released earlier this month found that more than 17 percent of avocados the agency tested for the foodborne pathogen listeria monocytogenes had the bacteria present on the skin.

Listeria monocytogenes is a species of bacteria the FDA says can cause serious problems for pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems. It's also been blamed for previous contamination incidents of several food items including ready-to-eat salads that were sold at Trader Joe's.

But how does the bad bacteria get from the avocado's skin to the meat of the fruit inside? The report explained that the pathogen can be transferred by any knife that is used to cut into the flesh. And everyone has to cut into an avocado to get to the yummy part inside.

Avocado Fries with Cilantro Crema

The good news is that in the sample tested by the FDA, only .24 percent showed the presence of listeria within the edible part of the fruit.

To reduce the risk of consuming the pathogen, the FDA recommends washing all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking it — even if you are planning to totally remove the rind or peel from the produce first.

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The FDA also recommends going a step further with firm produce — like avocados, melons and cucumbers — by scrubbing them with a vegetable brush, then drying the fruit with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting and consuming.

Many avocado eaters on Twitter were surprised by the FDA's warning and had mixed reactions about the news that it's now apparently necessary to wash the beloved green guacamole base.

Is the potential for listeria contamination just one more scary food safety issue to worry about?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 260 people die annually from listeria. By comparison, E. coli causes about 30 deaths each year.

With ongoing issues like the romaine lettuce scare in 2018, it's definitely better to be safe than sorry when it comes to meal prep. So take a few seconds to wash that avocado before you prepare a big batch of guac for your Super Bowl party ... you've got enough to worry about with avocado hand.