Avocado toast lovers, beware: Listeria was just found on a group of California avocados.
California-based Henry Avocado Corp. Volunteers revoke avocados in six states (Arizona, California, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) "out of an abundance of caution" after a group of green fruits tested positive for listeria pollution, the US Food and Drug Administration announced Saturday.
Conventional Henry avocados in the store have a sticker on those who say "bravocado" (see below), while the organic versions are a little harder to identify because you have to look at the barcode.
But please do not go out yet. Just because avocados have some listeria bacteria on the skin doesn't mean you get sick.
Listeria monocytogenes is a common type of pathogenic bacteria that can grow in soil and water. Symptoms of Listeriosis infection often include diarrhea and fever, and usually appear one to four weeks after a person is exposed to bacteria, although people may start to get sick the same day they eat contaminated food.
Pregnant women and others with weak immune systems are at risk
Listeriosis can be a serious problem for pregnant women, babies, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems (like HIV -, cancer and transplant patients).
Wash your avocados (and any other fresh fruits and vegetables) in clean, running water before cutting, eating and serving them. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends people to scrub the exterior of the avocado with a cleanly produced brush, and wipe them with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting into them to further reduce the bacteria that may be present.
If you or a loved one is exposed to listeria pollution, avoid raw milk products and rare meat products. In addition to avocados, listeria outbreaks have been tracked to melons, sprouts, raw milk and raw cheese, cold cuts and smoked seafood.
Wash your hands with warm soapy water before storing food and keeping the cuts clean, can also help. Keep in mind that listeria grows and spreads in the refrigerator, so you can avoid cross-contaminating food by keeping the refrigerator clean and listeria free.
"If you unconsciously cool listeria-contaminated foods, the bacteria will not only multiply at cool temperatures; they may contaminate your refrigerator and spread to other foods there, increasing the likelihood of you and your family becoming ill", as FDA warns.
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Although it is rarely a problem for otherwise healthy people who are not pregnant, listeriosis remains the third most common cause of death in food poisoning in the United States.
The CDC reports that around 1600 people receive listeriosis each year. It is fatal for about one in five people, and about 260 people die from listeriosis infections each year, although it can be treated with antibiotics. Women who are pregnant should be particularly careful; Listeriosis results in fetal death in about 20% of cases, and pregnant women are 13 times more likely than the general public to develop listeriosis, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.