FDA warns against viral avocado ‘kitchen tip’ that can make you sick

(NEXSTAR) – The Food and Drug Administration is once again recommending against a viral “kitchen tip” for keeping avocados from going bad, warning that it actually increases the likelihood of contamination and foodborne illness.

The “tip,” as presented on social-media sites such as Facebook or TikTok, encourages viewers to submerge unripe or ready-to-eat avocados in a container of water and store them in the refrigerator. The users who shared the idea on Facebook and TikTok claim this method keeps the avocados’ flesh from turning brown for up to a month.

The FDA had issued a statement in response to one of the Facebook posts in March, Today.com previously reported. But officials are again reminding consumers to refrain from the practice due to the risk of salmonella poisoning or listeriosis.

“The main concern is with the possibility that any residual human pathogens (i.e. Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., etc.) that may be residing on the avocado surface … may potentially multiply during the storage when submerged in water,” the FDA wrote in a statement shared with Nexstar, in response to a viral TikTok video first reported by Newsweek.

The threat isn’t only on the skin, either. An FDA study conducted in 2016 concluded that listeria bacteria on the skin of an avocado “has the potential to infiltrate and internalize into the pulp of the avocado when submerged in refrigerated dump tanks” for about two weeks,” the agency said.

“In this case, even surface disinfecting the avocado skin prior to slicing would not be able to remove the contamination.”

A separate FDA study a few years before also found listeria bacteria was more commonly detected on the skin of avocados than salmonella, though both were found in the study sample. A smaller percentage (0.24%) were found to have flesh contaminated with listeria monocytogenes.

Instead of storing the avocados in water, the California Avocado Commission recommends storing ripened fruit in the refrigerator, where they should stay fresh for two to three days. Sliced or halved avocados can also be refrigerated, and will last longer with lemon juice, lime juice or white vinegar sprinkled on the cut surfaces.

Avocados not yet ready to eat can be stored in a paper bag at room temperature. The process can be accelerated by keeping a kiwi or an apple in the same bag. The avocado is ripe when it “yields to gentle pressure,” the California Avocado Commission writes.