You may not eat this part of the avocado—but you MUST wash it.

December 20, 2018

Photo: FotografiaBasica / Getty Images

This story originally appeared on CookingLight.com by Lauren Wicks.

Avocado lovers definitely don't eat the skin of the creamy fruit-so why would you need to wash the exterior before carving into one? Turns out that the skin of an avocado can play host to bacteria that can find their way into the fruit's delicious green flesh, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Related: Healthy Avocado Recipes

The FDA issued a report earlier this month, urging consumers to think twice before eating or preparing avocado after compiling data that showed Listeria monocytogenes was found on 17 percent of avocado samples taken from 2014 to 2016. The bacteria was found on the skin of the avocados sampled, but 0.2 percent of avocados involved in the sampling contained flesh that also tested positive for listeria.

The FDA's report notes that all avocados should be washed before opening because bacteria can easily transfer from the skin to the knife, which can then contaminate the inside of the avocado you're preparing-and any other food you're working with.

According to the FDA's blog, Foodsafety.gov, experts recommend going one step further by firmly scrubbing the skin with a produce brush and drying with a clean cloth or paper towel. This is a good rule of thumb for all produce in general, and you should always wash your hands after cleaning produce (yes, even if it is organic).

More tips for staying safe in your kitchen:

A listeria outbreak linked to avocados has still yet to occur in the US, but there's more than one kind of bacteria to watch out for. Federal investigators are also monitoring the presence of salmonella on avocado skins-the same report found just under one percent of avocados sampled carried salmonella on the skin. The FDA is continuing their investigation by also sampling ready-to-eat products containing avocado, such as packaged guacamole, for more harmful bacteria into 2019.

Listeria is uncommon in healthy adults, but the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems could be at greater risk for this illness. Symptoms include fever, nausea, muscle aches, vomiting, and chronic diarrhea-more severe cases can lead to confusion, stiff neck, and convulsions.

Taking the extra few minutes to make sure your avocados are safe to eat could help your family stay safe from foodborne illnesses-which is a good practice for all vegetables and fruit found in your supermarkets.

This article originally appeared on CookingLight.com

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