Skipping this step in your avocado prep could make you very sick.

If you pick up your avocado and slice right in with a knife, you could regret that choice later. (And no, we're not talking about avocado hand.)

Avocados. Photo by Meredith
Photo by Meredith
| Credit: Meredith

That's because bacteria and viruses living on the outside of the avocado can work their way into the beloved buttery, green fruit when you slice through the peel and into the flesh. Some of those bacteria could ultimately make you sick.

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report in 2018 that said they found Listeria monocytogenes on almost 18 percent of the avocado skins they tested from imported and domestic avocado crops. These bacteria can cause nausea, fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, and other flu-like symptoms.

Consider the life cycle of an avocado: From the moment it's picked off a tree, the avocado passes through many hands, from farm, processing, shipping, and storage. Then, your fellow grocery shoppers are likely to pick it up, give it a squeeze, and put it down before you finally select it as the one and take it home with you.

Each time someone touches the avocado, bacteria and viruses can be introduced to the peel. When you cut into the avocado without washing it, you could move those pathogens from the outside of the fruit to the inside, or the part you're planning to eat.

"Even if you plan to cut the rind or peel off the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first so dirt and bacteria aren't transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable," writes

Ripe Avocado
Ripe Avocado | Photo by Meredith

With the large number of food recalls for microbial contamination, avocados have not yet been linked to any widespread foodborne illness outbreaks. But the FDA is working to update their testing procedures so they can stay ahead of potential issues, including with avocados.

Indeed, that same FDA report found Salmonella on less than one percent of the avocados they tested, and that particular bacterium has been linked to recalls for ground turkey, tahini, and spinach, among other foods.

Wash your avocado under water and gently scrub it with a vegetable brush to break loose and rinse away any potentially harmful pathogens camped out on the peel of the avocado. Be sure to dry the skin, too, add the folks from Avocados From Mexico. If you don't, you could end up inviting more of the bad bugs back into your food when spoilage sets in.

No one's trying to have a stomach bug with their guacamole or tummy cramping with their baked avocados. Be good to your gut and wash your 'cados before you slice into them.