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While most of us may not be used to washing an avocado before cutting it open, recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) findings may provide reason to change that habit.

Newsweek recently reported that the FDA had collected more than a 1,000 avocado samples between 2014 and 2016 to be tested, as a way to prevent consumers from eating contaminated food.

The FDA conducted the test to find out the pervasiveness of potentially infectious bacteria, namely salmonella and listeria monocytogenes. The two types of bacteria are said to likely transfer from the peel to the flesh when the fruit is cut open.

A test result showed that around 12 of 1,615 sampled avocados contained salmonella on the skin. The fruits are of Hass variety and domestically grown in the US.

Another 361 avocados were tested, and 64 of them are found to contain listeria on the skin. Thirty-three of them were domestic fruits and the rest were imported. Listeria was also found on the flesh of three fruits out of another 1,254 imported avocados tested.

The reports, however, did not detail the concentration of the bacteria in the samples. Although low listeria exposure does not tend to cause serious illness for most healthy adults, it could harm pregnant women, newborns, adults aged 65 and older, and those with weakened immune systems, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC also informed that listeriosis, an infection caused by listeria, affects around 1,600 people every year in the US. The infection, marked by various symptoms including headache, confusion, stiff neck, loss of balance, convulsions, fever and muscle aches can also cause death (around 260 out of 1,600 cases).

Regardless of no listeria outbreaks associated to avocados reported in the US, FDA’s research indicates that the strains are “highly related” to those found in contaminated people.

Read also: Trendy avocados removed from UK menus amid environmental concerns

Salmonella, the other bacteria found on avocados, is the culprit behind 1.2 million illnesses that lead to about 450 deaths every year in the US, according to CDC data. The infection symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, but most people can recover without having to receive medical treatment.

It is safest, however, to wash avocado skin thoroughly with water before consumption. Better yet, use a clean produce brush to scrub avocado skin, to prevent any dirt and bacteria from transferring from the knife to the flesh of the fruit. (mut)

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4 Food Mistakes that Make You Sick

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According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), millions of people get sick, about 325,000 are hospitalized, and nearly 5,000 die each year from foodborne illness in the United States. The good news is it’s largely avoidable. Break these 5 germ-generating habits to prevent becoming a statistic!

1. Double dipping. According to an ADA survey, 38 percent of Americans admit to “double dipping,” a sure way to transfer germs into a bowl of salsa or dip and share them with your family and friends.

The solution: Have everyone spoon a serving of dip onto their individual plates instead of eating out of one communal bowl.

2. Not washing produce before slicing. If you skip rinsing foods like avocado, squash, pineapple, grapefruit, or melon before cutting because you don’t eat the outer skin, you may be transferring hidden bacteria from the surface right into the center of the fruit, contaminating the edible portion.

The solution: Assume there’s bacteria on the surface and wash every fresh food you eat, especially if it won’t be cooked to kill hidden bacteria.

3. Shopping for perishable foods first. Is the deli or dairy section your first stop in the supermarket? If so, you may be putting those foods in the “danger zone” (40-140 degrees F) longer than recommended, which boosts bacterial growth.

The solution: Shop for items like milk and fresh meat last and place them near frozen foods in your grocery cart.

4. Waiting before refrigerating.. Nearly four out of five home cooks think it’s necessary to wait until foods cool before putting them in the refrigerator, but in reality, the opposite is true. Food left at room temp too long can breed bacteria, and while refrigeration slows the growth, it does not kill bacteria. In the same ADA survey mentioned above, 36 percent of people admit to eating leftover pizza from the night before…even if it hadn’t been refrigerated!

The solution: Always put leftovers away as soon as you’re finished cooking or eating. A sniff or taste test won’t work because you can’t see, smell, or taste the bacteria that can make you sick.

  • By Cynthia Sass

Dec. 20, 2018 — Even though you plan to peel it, wash that avocado first. Almost 18% of avocado skins tested positive for listeria in samples taken by the FDA from 2014 to 2016. Less than 1% of pulp samples — that’s the part you eat — tested positive for the harmful bacteria. The agency published the results of the testing earlier this month.

Eating food contaminated with listeria can cause listeriosis, an illness that can send you to the hospital and cause death. People at greatest risk are pregnant women, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems.

The FDA recommends washing all produce under running water and scrubbing firm produce with a clean produce brush before cutting or peeling it. When you cut into unwashed produce, you can transfer contaminants from the knife to the fruit.

Listeria can also spread from contaminated foods to refrigerators and other kitchen surfaces. The FDA recommends cleaning up spills and leaks inside refrigerators immediately and washing the inside with warm soapy water regularly.

When foods test positive for listeria or other harmful bacteria, the FDA alerts the manufacturer and issues recalls as needed.

GUAC lovers are running a risk of being POISONED if they don’t wash their avocados before eating them, experts warn.

A new US report has found that avocado skins contain dangerous bacteria which can cause food poisoning.

2 Credit: Alamy

The Found and Drug Administration (FDA) tested more than 1,600 avocados in America and found that while the flesh tends to be fine, the skins often carry Listeria monocytogenes – the bacteria that causes the infection listeriosis.

This month, the FDA found bacteria on the peels of about one in every five avocados.

The research also tested for listeria and salmonella inside 1,615 avocados, but less than 1 per cent tested positive for either.

Aside from rinsing the fruits before cutting them open, the FDA said you can reduce your chances of developing an infection by the way you eat them.

2 Credit: Getty – Contributor

Scooping out the flesh and binning the skins as well as eating avocados very soon after they’re cut open helps to reduce the skin of getting sick.

William Hallman, a human ecology professor at Rutgers University, said that although the chances of the bacteria getting from skin to flesh was pretty slim, the FDA’s warning was still “good advice.”

He told USA Today: “Even though the risk is relatively small, you can reduce it to virtually nonexistent.

“There are many more dangerous things you can do than not wash an avocado, but having said that, the rate at which the FDA found listeria on avocados was a fair amount.”

What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis is usually caught from eating foods that contain the listeria bacteria.

Infected foods tend to be:

  • unpasteurised milk
  • dairy products made from unpasteurised milk
  • soft cheeses, like camembert and brie
  • chilled ready-to-eat foods, like prepacked sandwiches, pâté and deli meats

Symptoms include:

  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • aches and pains
  • chills
  • feeling sick or vomiting
  • diarrhoea

They only tend to last a couple of days but if you’re pregnant, then call your midwife ASAP.

Severe listeriosis in babies and people with weak immune systems can lead to things like meningitis so it really is best avoided if possible by washing all fruit and veg, washing your hands with soap and water and making sure food is properly cooked.

Source: NHS

Listeria can be serious and in some people, is fatal.

But it’s still rare; there are fewer than 200 cases in the UK each year and around 30 of those are pregnant women (for whom it can be incredibly dangerous).

Washing fruit and veg and ensuring that food is refrigerated as soon as possible and properly heated back up are ways of reducing your risk of getting ill.

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Food Poisoning: What Are the Symptoms? How Do I Recover? 

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The lurching, churning sensation deep in your stomach that tells you things are not well—we’ve all felt it once or twice (or many more times) in our lives. Soon comes the more physical reactions to the illness, and your diagnosis is confirmed:You’ve eaten something bad.

Food poisoning is far from rare. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 48 million Americans experience food poisoning each year. Of those, just more than 125,000 are hospitalized because of the illness, and sadly, around 3,000 die from food poisoning or foodborne illnesses every year.

Here, the symptoms, causes, and complications of food poisoning, as well as advice on recovering and even preventing food poisoning in the future.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning symptoms depend on the part of your body that is affected by the bacteria, parasites, or viruses you consumed with your food or beverage. The most common symptoms are nausea and vomiting. However, these symptoms are also possible:

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain and cramping
  • fever
  • dizziness
  • numbness
  • tingling in the arms

Symptoms of food poisoning can show up in a few hours, or they make take several days or weeks. That’s because the type of contamination largely decides how quickly you will get sick and what the symptoms will be.

The most common causes of food poisoning—E. coli, Salmonella,and Listeria—begin within a few hours. Symptoms are primarily vomiting and nausea, and the poisoning should resolve itself in two or three days.

Foods That Cause Food Poisoning

In theory, every food could be contaminated. That’s because foods can be contaminated at any point in growing, manufacturing, processing, or transportation. They could also be contaminated once you get them home.

However, certain foods are more likely to be the gut-wrenching culprits because of how they’re grown or made or how they’re processed. These foods include:

  • sushi or raw fish products
  • eggs
  • poultry
  • deli meat
  • hot dogs
  • meat, including beef, lamb, pork, fish, and shellfish
  • cheese
  • milk and dairy foods
  • fruits
  • vegetables

Complications of Food Poisoning

For most individuals, food poisoning is no fun, but it passes in a few days with no lingering symptoms.

That may not be the case for everyone, however. The most common complication of food poisoning is dehydration. With the vomiting and diarrhea, it’s not impossible that you could lose too much fluid, as well as vital minerals and salts. When this happens, you may experience:

  • excessive thirst
  • dry mouth
  • severe weakness
  • dizziness
  • little or no urination, or very dark urine
  • tingling in the arms
  • blurry vision
  • Lightheadedness

Other complications can occur in at-risk populations. For example, pregnant women may put themselves at risk of a miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature birth if their food poisoning is caused by listeria, a type of bacteria that’s commonly found in unpasteurized dairy products.

Groups at Increased Risk

Healthy individuals will have few problems as a result of food poisoning. That’s because the average and otherwise healthy person’s gastrointestinal (GI) system and body can bear the brunt of food poisoning and come out the other side a little haggard but otherwise OK.

However, that is not the case for all individuals. These groups of people may be at increased risk for complications of food poisoning. They may need special treatment in order to overcome the illness and recover.

  • Older adults and seniors: People of advanced age do not have immune systems with great fortitude. They may not respond as quickly to the bacteria, virus, or parasite as younger individuals. Their symptoms may be greater, and they may be more likely to experience severe complications.
  • People with chronic diseases: If you have a chronic illness, you’re no stranger to the increased risk of infections or illness that your long-term condition causes. With a weakened immune system, illnesses like food poisoning may be more severe.
  • Pregnant women: Women who get food poisoning during pregnancy should check with their doctors immediately. Some forms of food poisoning put pregnant women at risk of a miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature birth. Rarely, the illness can be passed to the fetus.
  • Infants and young children: They’re little, and their immune systems are young. That means they’ve not had the time to develop a robust way to fight off illness or recover quickly. Infants and toddlers may get more sick than older children and adults.

What Causes Food Poisoning?

In short: viruses, bacteria, chemicals, and parasites.

The list of these bugs and bad guys that could cause food poisoning is lengthy. Here are the top five culprits:

  • Escherichia coli (E.coli): This bacterium is commonly found in beef and animal proteins. Feces from the animal is passed through the production process to your plate. Undercooked meat is a common source.
  • Salmonella: Raw and undercooked meat, including poultry and pork, milk, and egg yolks are common sources of this bacterium. (This is why your mom warned you not to eat cookie dough.) It can be spread easily through a kitchen, passing from surface to surface and utensil to utensil.
  • Listeria: This bacterium is the culprit behind the many (many) ice cream recall headlines last year. It’s found commonly in dairy products, as well as lunch meats, hot dogs, and on raw fruits and vegetables. It can be spread through contaminated soil, water, and processing equipment.
  • Clostridium botulinum: Home-canned foods and improperly canned foods are a common source of this bacterium. It has the capability of producing botulinum, a neurotoxin. This dangerous bug can also grow in foods that are kept warm for too long, such as foods on buffets or at barbecues, or foods that are cooked slowly, such as smoked or salted foods.
  • Rotavirus: This contagious virus is easily passed on ready-to-eat produce, such as salads, fruit, and other ready-made foods. It can be spread by infected food handlers, too.

How Is Food Poisoning Treated?

For the most part, food poisoning does not need to be treated. Most individuals will make a full recovery with a bit of rest and rehydration.

In the first days after getting sick, these recovery treatments may help:

  • Eat bland foods. Rice, bananas, saltine crackers, chicken stock, and other easy-on-the-stomach foods should be your primary diet for the first few days after food poisoning.
  • Get hydrated. Your body will lose a great deal of fluids while you’re sick, so drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich drinks like sports drinks.
  • Take something for nausea. It’s not a great idea to take medicines to stop diarrhea, such as loperamide (Imodium). Your body needs to clear the bacteria or virus that’s making you sick, and the medicine may slow that process. Instead, look for things that can help settle nausea, like ginger candies or no-caffeine sodas (lemon-lime soda or ginger ale).

How Do I Prevent Food Poisoning?

While not always possible, good habits can help cut down on your risk for future episodes of food poisoning. These steps are:

  • Clean: Wash your hands, utensils, surfaces, and anything that comes into contact with food often and well. Use warm, soapy water to wash, and hot water to rinse.
  • Separate: Keep raw foods like meat and uncut fruits and vegetables away from ready-to-eat foods. This cuts down on the risk of sharing bacteria and viruses.
  • Cook: Raw meats are a common source of illness-making bacteria, but cooking them to recommended temperatures will help kill those bacteria. For beef, cook foods to 160°F; for lamb, pork, and veal, cook foods to 145°F; for poultry like chicken and turkey, cook to 165°F.
  • Chill: Foods should be refrigerated promptly, or within two hours of being at room temperature. If you’re outside and the temps are over 90°F, you have only one hour before all the foods need to be cooled.
  • Toss: When in doubt, toss any suspicious foods. It’s better to be safe than sorry—or rather, sick.

When to See a Doctor

If symptoms of food poisoning do not subside after 72 hours, you may need to see a doctor for antibiotics or anti-parasite medications. Before you can get a medicine, however, your doctor may conduct a few tests to determine what’s causing the symptoms. This could include blood tests and fecal tests.

Avocados are one of the nation’s favorite foods. But did you know you should wash the skin before eating them? That’s the advice of a Food and Drug Administration report which found that pathogens can be transferred from the peel to the edible flesh inside when you cut them open.

As part of an initiative to keep contaminated food from reaching consumers, the FDA collected more than 1,500 avocado samples over a period of 18 months between 2014 and 2016 to determine the prevalence two types of bacteria which can cause potentially serious infections; salmonella and listeria monocytogenes.

Read more: Chipotle food poisoning sickens at least 200 people in Ohio, local health officials say

Around 70 percent of the avocado samples the agency collected had been imported into the country, while the rest were grown domestically. These proportions are roughly equivalent to the actual share of imported and home-grown avocados in the U.S. market.

The FDA tested the prevalence of salmonella on the skin of avocados, as well as listeria on the skin and in its pulp—the edible portion of the fruit. The results showed that 12 out of 1,615 sampled products, or 0.74 percent, contained salmonella on the skin (11 green-skinned avocados and one of the dark-green, rough-skinned, Hass variety—all of which were domestically grown.)

The FDA also tested 361 of the avocado samples for listeria on the skin, finding the pathogen on 64, or 17.73 percent, of them (33 domestic and 31 imported.) They then tested 1,254 of the avocados for listeria in the pulp, finding three of the samples—all of which were imported—contained the bacteria.

It is important to note that the latest report did not look into the concentrations of pathogens in these samples. In most healthy adults, low levels of exposure to listeria bacteria does not tend to cause severe illness. However, high-risk individuals—including pregnant women, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems—could be vulnerable to small amounts of the pathogen.

Being infected with listeria can lead to listeriosis, which affects about 1,600 people every year in the United States, leading to 260 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)

Symptoms vary but can include headache, confusion, stiff neck, loss of balance, convulsions, fever and muscle aches. The infection is particularly dangerous for pregnant women because it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or life-threatening illness in the baby.

While there have been no listeria outbreaks linked to eating avocados reported in the U.S., the FDA say that the strains they detected in their research are “highly related” to those found in contaminated people. However, avocados are thought to have been responsible for a handful outbreaks involving salmonella and the bacteria e. coli, according to the CDC.

Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses every year in the U.S., CDC data suggests, leading to about 450 deaths—although most people recover without treatment. Common symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.

In order to reduce the risk of infections from eating avocados, the FDA recommend that you should wash the fruit thoroughly with water beforehand, even if you plan to cut off the skin first. This will ensure that dirt and bacteria are not transferred from the knife to the fruit.

Furthermore, foodsafety.gov recommends that consumers should scrub firm produce, such as avocados, with a clean produce brush, before drying it with a clean paper towel.

The FDA says it is currently working with the food industry to try and reduce contamination of avocado skins. Furthermore, the agency has also begun a large-scale study looking into the prevalence of listeria and salmonella in processed avocado products, such as guacamole.

This photograph taken on July 25, 2018 shows 73 year-old Kenyan avocado farmer Simon Kimani posing with some of his crop in Kandara, central Kenya. KEVIN MIDIGO/AFP/Getty Images

When is an avocado not safe to eat?

I cut out the brown spots and eat the rest. As for the strings, I find avocados with strings in them have deteriorated in flavor and do not taste good, so I usually throw them out. They are probably safe however. As to why the strings are there in the first place, here is what the California Avocado Board had to say:
Why does my avocado have strings or spots?
Strings or stringy fruit or the thickening of the vascular bundles (fibers that run longitudinally through the fruit) are generally the result of fruit from younger trees or improper storage conditions. Often times the fibers or strings will disappear or become less noticeable as the fruit (and tree) matures.
Flesh discoloration can occur when the avocado has been exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time. Flesh bruising can occur in transit or as a result of compression caused by excessive handling. Unfortunately there is no way to detect either flesh discoloration or flesh bruising by looking at the avocado’s exterior. Damaged areas or spots can be removed by cutting them out.

Zedcor Wholly Owned/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

Avocado that’s turning brown might look unappetizing yet still be fine to eat. Rough treatment, air exposure and rotting can all lead to discolored avocados. Depending on the cause, the discoloration may affect the entire fruit, or just part of it, though the color alone might not tell whether or not it’s safe to eat. As long as it isn’t growing mold or bacteria, the discoloration probably won’t affect the avocado’s safety, and might not even impair the flavor

Cut It

For bruises or a browned surface, cut off the discolored area. If it’s a partial avocado, such as half a leftover avocado, cut 1/8 inch off of the cut surface to remove the browned part. If the discoloration is from mold, however, discard the avocado. Mold has a furry appearance and may look white or gray. Mold toxins can affect the rest of a soft food — even after you cut the moldy parts away — and these toxins can make you ill. Don’t sniff an avocado that has mold on it. Sniffing mold can cause respiratory trouble.

Smell It

When in doubt, assess the odor. Avocados generally keep in the refrigerator for three to five days, but if the fruit is bruised or over-ripe, it won’t last as long. Over-ripe avocados become brown with a black skin, and may have sunken areas where the skin is separating from the underlying flesh. Sniff the over-ripe avocado to check if it has a rotten or “off” odor. A sour taste or bad smell can indicate bacterial spoilage, and these avocados should be thrown out. An avocado that’s good to eat has a mild, pleasant smell.

Mash It

Streaks of black or brown through the avocado occur occasionally in fruit from young trees, according to the Hass Avocado Board. These aren’t harmful, and don’t affect the flavor of the fruit. Although these avocados won’t make an attractive garnish or salad topping, they taste fine and work well for guacamole.

Keep Them Green

Once the avocado is cut, air exposure causes the flesh to become discolored. This process is called oxidation. Drizzle lemon on avocado flesh and avocados mashed for dips and guacamole. Lemon or lime go particularly well with the mellow flavor of avocados; orange, tangerine or vinegar will also keep the flesh from changing color. Keep avocados tightly wrapped after cutting into them. Apply cling film or waxed paper in direct contact with the avocado’s surface to limit its exposure to the air.

Rotten avocado food poisoning

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