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Prevalence of Pathogens in Avocados and Peppers


In accordance with a legislative mandate, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has initiated a program of proactive sampling for the three major foodborne pathogen genera, Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli in selected foods, both domestic and imported.


Of 1,615 hot pepper samples tested, three percent were positive for Salmonella and one positive for an E. coli STEC strain.  Among 1,615 domestic and imported avocado samples less than one percent were positive for Salmonella and only three out of 1,254 avocado pulp samples yielded Listeria.  In contrast of 361 avocado-skin samples, 18 percent were positive for Listeria indicating the need to carefully wash produce before food preparation and also to apply hygienic practices including frequent hand washing during food preparation. 


Previously herbs have been implicated in foodborne infection.  In 2011, an extensive STEC infection in Germany was attributed to fenugreek sprouts contaminated with E.coli O104:H4. In the FDA survey, 683 fresh herb samples, nine tested positive for Salmonella, six for STEC and four for Cyclospora.  Eleven of 474 processed guacamole samples yielded Listeria.