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Avocados Could Be Contaminated With Listeria

Catherine Roberts

California Avocados Could Be Contaminated With Listeria

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Henry Avocado has recalled its California-grown whole avocados because the fruit may be contaminated with listeria, a type of bacteria that can cause serious foodborne illness.  

The recall includes conventional and organically grown fruit that has been shipped to supermarkets in Arizona, California, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. All the avocados were packed at Henry’s packing facility in California. Henry’s avocados grown in Mexico were packed elsewhere and are not involved in this recall.

Consumers can identify the recalled products by looking at the sticker on the avocado. Recalled products are labeled either with the brand “Bravocado” or with “Organic.” “California” is on both stickers.

The problem was discovered during a routine government inspection at the California packing facility. So far no one has been reported sick as a result of the contamination.

Henry Avocado said in a news release that it’s contacting all the retailers that received recalled avocados to make sure the products are being removed from store shelves, but the company did not make that list available.

The company told Consumer Reports in an email that it is currently cleaning and sanitizing its California packing facility, a process being conducted by a third party. “This will be followed by comprehensive environmental sampling before we begin packing there again,” said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado. “We are also in the process of reviewing and assessing all of our food safety systems so we can continuously improve our programs.”

Consumers should throw out or return to the store any avocados included in this recall, says Sana Mujahid, Ph.D., manager of food safety research at Consumer Reports. But it’s also wise to take precautions with other avocados, she says. When the Food and Drug Administration tested 361 avocados between 2014 and 2016, the agency found that 17.73 percent of them had listeria on their skin, according to a report published late last year [PDF].

Even though you don’t eat an avocado’s skin, Mujahid says, if the outside is contaminated, it’s possible to transfer bacteria to the pulp inside when you slice the fruit with a knife. To help reduce the risk of that happening, before cutting or peeling it, rinse the fruit with water, scrub it thoroughly with a produce brush, and dry with a clean towel.

Although listeria infections are rare in the U.S., people with weaker immune systems, including older adults, people with chronic health conditions such as cancer and diabetes, and pregnant women, are more likely to get sick from the bacteria. “These people require a lower dose of listeria cells to get sick,” Mujahid says. They’re also more likely to experience serious complications from an infection, including, in the case of pregnant women, miscarriages, stillbirths, and preterm labor. And more than half of the 1,600 yearly listeria infections in the U.S. occur in older adults. Listeria is also the third leading cause of food poisoning fatalities—causing 260 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms are similar to those of other foodborne illnesses, and include fever and diarrhea. Markers of more severe infection include stiff neck, headache, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. In pregnant women, symptoms can also include other flulike symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches.

The Details

Products recalled: Whole avocados sold in bulk in stores from Henry Avocado. Affected products have a sticker that says either “Bravocado” or “Organic.” Both stickers contain the word “California.” The avocados are sold in stores in Arizona, California, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin

The problem: The avocados are potentially contaminated with listeria.

The fix: Do not eat recalled avocados. Throw them out or return them to the store where you purchased them for a refund.

How to contact the manufacturer: Call Henry Avocado at 760-745-6632, ext 132.

How to report a problem: If you become ill after eating avocados (or any fruit or vegetable) and suspect the illness may be due to food poisoning, you can report it to your local health department. You can find information for your state at foodsafety.gov. Alternatively, you can contact the Food and Drug Administration Consumer Complaint Coordinator for your state.



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