Wash, scrub and dry your avocados before giving them to babies
We've also provided some extra food hygiene practices mums need to know before feeding their little ones solids.
For many mums, avocado is a popular fruit to feed their young kids. It’s particularly high in good fats and also has all-rounded nutrients. It’s also a great first food to give babies just starting solids. Since you scoop out the flesh inside, many mums neglect washing the outside skin first. But one investigation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows us why it’s so important to wash these fruits, and teaches us how to clean an avocado.
How to clean an avocado and why, according to the FDA
Most of us don’t clean avocado skins before cutting into them. After all, we don’t eat the skins, so why bother? But you should bother. Bacteria, that’s why.
According to one report from the US FDA on 7th December 2018, authorities discovered bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes on over 17% of avocado skins they tested from 2014 and 2016.
Shockingly, about 0.2% of these avocados contained the bacteria inside the fruit’s flesh, too.
Using a knife to cut into the skin and flesh theoretically could transfer the bacteria from the skin into the flesh.
So, it makes sense to actually wash or rinse the avocado skin prior to slicing it. That way you can prevent bacteria from the skin entering the flesh. It’s particularly important because babies still don’t have strong immune systems.
The FDA recommends thoroughly cleaning any vegetables you want to consume. Furthermore, they also advise people to “scrub firm produce (including avocados) with a clean produce brush”. Next, people should “dry it with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce any bacteria” on the fruit.
Don’t forget to also give your hands a good scrubbing after touching avocados, too!
Why a Listeria infection is dangerous
A person infected with Listeria can develop a range of symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, and/or nausea.
In really serious Listeria infections, the bacteria can circulate into the nervous system, leading to disorientation, convulsions, and a stiff neck.
Normally, the infection isn’t life-threatening to a healthy adult. However, people without a strong immune system like pregnant women, newborns, and senior citizens are especially vulnerable to even the tiniest amounts of Listeria bacteria.
In particular, Listeria is a high risk infection to pregnant women. Although the pregnant mum might only show mild, flu-like symptoms when infected with Listeria, the bacteria can also make its way to the fetus.
A foetal infection with Listeria might result in stillbirth, miscarriage, premature birth, or could kill the newborn baby. This is the main reason why pregnant women are strictly advised to avoid eating food that might contain the Listeria bacteria.
What else did the FDA discover?
In the same report, the FDA discovered bacteria related to Salmonella on 12 of the avocado skins — roughly under 1% of all skins tested.
“The findings of this assignment affirm that Salmonella may be present on avocados and that Listeria monocytogenes may be present on or in the fruit,” wrote the FDA.
Still, there haven’t been many reports of Listeria outbreaks due to eating avocados. In the U.S. alone, the Centre for Disease Control reports about 12 outbreaks of food poisoning coming from avocados between 2005 to 2015. Nine were caused by Salmonella, and three from E. coli.
The FDA now seeks to find out if processed avocado like pre-made guacamole can pose the same health risk. “The agency is seeking data on the prevalence of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes in processed avocado and processed avocado products,” says the agency.
Other tips to handle baby food safely
Once your baby begins eating food other than breastmilk, there is a whole new set of food safety rules which you should be aware of before handling their food. Of course, as with milk preparation, washing your hands (caregivers, too) is of utmost importance prior to food handling and preparation.
Other than how to clean an avocado, keep the following tips in mind and also share them with your helper or other caregivers of your little one:
Food handling and hygiene tips
- Always separate raw and cooked food, in the fridge and during preparation. Have separate chopping boards for meat and fish, fruit and vegetables.
- Never feed your baby directly from a jar and then put the leftovers back in the fridge. Saliva on the spoon may contaminate the food. Consider placing a portion of the food in a dish and adding more from the bottle (using a clean, dry spoon) if needed. Keep the remainder in the bottle in the fridge and throw away any left in your baby’s bowl or plate.
- Use detergent and hot water to wash all items and utensils that are used to prepare baby’s food, including chopping boards, blenders and food processors.
- When out and about, never place your little one’s dirty diapers in the same bag that you carry bottles or food due to the risk of contamination.
- Do not leave your baby’s solid food out at room temperature for more than two hours. Refridgerate them afterwards.
- Don’t feed your child fruit that has cracked or split skin, as bacteria may enter through this opening. The same goes for eggs with even slightly cracked shells.
Food preparation tips
- Cook meat thoroughly.
- If you are reheating food for your little one, bring it to a full boil and let it cool, remembering to test the temperature before feeding your baby.
- If you give your baby jarred food, always check that the safety button on the lid hasn’t popped. Get rid of any jars with rusty lids or chipped glass and always check the expiry date when purchasing.
Other things to take note of
- Never give honey to a baby younger than one year of age. Honey may contain the clostridium botulinum organism that could cause serious illness or death through a condition known as botulism.
- Do not give raw or unpasteurised milk to infants and young kids as it may contain harmful bacteria that can make your child very sick.
Mums, we hope that this article on how to clean an avocado and Listeria monocytogenes has been helpful. If you liked this article, please consider sharing it on your social media platform!