Last December, the FDA issued a microbiological sample study on whole, fresh avocados. As a result of this study, they have warned the general public that a chance of listeria poisoning exists if the skins are not washed before cutting. We’ve looked at their study, and we agree MN Certified Food Managers should be aware of the FDA warning on avocados, but why stop with avocados?
FDA Warning on Avocados (And Washing ALL Skinned Fruits and Vegetables)
During training, certified food protection managers learn that one of the most common causes of food-borne illness is the transfer of bacteria from one surface to another. In the case of the FDA’s recent study, this transfer has been occurring in avocados. But how does listeria end up in a dish containing avocados if we don’t eat the skin?
In the case of avocados, and other fruits and vegetables with rinds, shells or thick skins, contamination can dwell on the surface of the item in question. When you cut into these rinds, your knife blade may come into contact with listeria, salmonella or any number of other types of contaminates. Once this happens, the bacteria simply spreads into the edible portion of your fruits and vegetables as your now contaminated knife slides through the meat of your ingredient.
While there is little chance the insides were contaminated before preparation, the simple act of cutting open an avocado, melon or citrus fruit has now increased the change of illness because of a failure to wash your product ahead of time.
As a certified food protection manager, your role should be to educate and monitor your staff to see that all skinned produce is washed before preparation. Take care to ensure that everyone knows the risks, even some staff members who may not work in the kitchen who prepare ingredients such as lemon wedges for the bar, sliced oranges for garnish or any other employee whose duties involve preparing these types of items.
Do you take extra steps to wash produce with inedible skins and rinds?