Should You Wash Avocados Before Eating Them?

Creamy, versatile, and downright delicious, avocados are a healthy addition to just about any meal. Whether you're making zesty guacamole, topping off a spicy southwestern salad, or transforming it into a dessert, the California-grown and harvested crop has many applications. While peeling an avocado to perfection is a tricky science, its tough skin protects the soft inner fruit from dirt, insects, and oxidization. Because avocados have this nature-built protection, it's a common kitchen misconception that you don't have to wash these fruits before consuming them.

But like other foods harvested from the ground, it's important to wash your avocados the same way you would with other fruits, vegetables, and spuds. Whether you use a specially formulated fruit and veggie soap or just plain old water, washing your produce helps eliminate the risk of consuming pesticides or contracting foodborne illnesses like E.coli and Salmonella (per Medical News Today). In an interview with Southern Living, nutrition expert Toby Amidor warns that avocados have creases in their exteriors that trap dirt and bacteria — yikes!

Why you should wash avocados before eating them

From vomiting to cold sweats and headaches, food poisoning is a wholly unpleasant and potentially life-threatening experience. Despite being a largely preventable issue, there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness each year in The United States alone (per FDA). Avocados in particular are susceptible to carrying Listeria monocytogenes — a type of bacteria that causes a distinctly grueling foodborne illness called "listeriosis."

As recently as 2018, the FDA published a staggering report which found that out of 1,615 avocado samples, over 17% had Listeria monocytogenes contamination on their skins (per Food & Wine). While the bacteria were present at relatively harmless levels and unlikely to cause poisoning in a healthy person, they can grow and multiply under the right conditions. As a result of a recent social media avocado storage trend, many people preserve their sliced avocados in a shallow bowl of water. While it certainly prevents oxidation, the FDA advises against the preservation method as Listeria monocytogenes can multiply in water.

The best method for preparing and preserving avocados is one tried and true. Avoid being a statistic of food poisoning by washing the fruit with water and placing any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Happy eating!