Storing Avocados in Water To Help Them Last Longer Is Actually a Huge Food Safety Hazard, Says the FDA

Photo: Stocksy/ Martí Sans
Everyone loves a TikTok trend, but let's face it: Your "For You" page could definitely benefit from an occasional fact check. If you've been targeted with a new hack for your favorite green fruit—namely, storing your avocados in water to keep them fresh—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants you to think twice about your storage choices. This, they say, is for the sake of your health and your avocado toast.

For the unordained, the aforementioned TikTok "hack" claims to keep a ripe avocado fresh in one easy step. You simply fill a bowl or container with water, submerge the whole avocado in said water, and pop it into the fridge. While the claims are different on basically every TikTok avocado video out there, some of the app's content producers have stated that the trick keeps the fruit fresh in the fridge for a month or more. If that sounds too good to be true, it's because it is—at least from a food safety perspective.

Experts In This Article

Is it safe to store avocados in water?

According to the FDA and a food safety expert, the answer is simple: No! "The FDA does not recommend this practice," an FDA spokesperson tells Well+Good. "The main concern is with the possibility that any residual human pathogens—like Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella spp.—that may be residing on the avocado surface, may potentially multiply during the storage when submerged in water." Big yikes.

Trevor Craig, a food safety expert and corporate director of technical training and consulting at Microbac Laboratories, also agrees that storing avocados in water is a big no-no (even if it hasn't been cut into). "While avocados have a thick skin, they are not a perfectly-sealed item. Storing them in water allows the water to get inside. This heightens the potential for bacterial growth—especially bacteria from the outside—that could seep inside the water and cause growth," Craig says. Ick.

Bottom line? This TikTok hack doesn't get his (nor the FDA's) seal of approval. "This method of storage is a risk that the FDA does not recommend, and I wouldn’t try either," Craig says. But what if you washed your avocados before dunking them into a bowl of water or storing them in the fridge? Craig says the answer is still no. Here's why.

Should you wash avocados before storing them?

Another common food safety mistake Craig sees often: washing avocados before storing them. To reiterate, an avocado's skin is permeable and porous to a certain extent. So, in addition to that initial concern (Listeria! Salmonella!), the FDA spokesperson notes that even giving the 'cado a good scrub when you're ready to chow down won't necessarily get rid of the harmful bacteria. "Research performed by FDA scientists has shown that Listeria monocytogenes has the potential to infiltrate and internalize into the pulp of avocados when submerged in refrigerated dump tanks within 15 days during refrigerated storage. In this case, even surface disinfecting the avocado skin prior to slicing would not be able to remove the contamination," the FDA says.

This is why Craig urges folks to hold off from washing 'cados until they're ready to actually eat them. "I wash mine right before cutting into them but not before storage for the same reason as storing them in water. Water can seep in and give bacteria time to get into the fruit and start to grow," he explains. Of course, no matter how you store your avocados (washed or not) there is always a slight risk of contamination, but submerging or rinsing your precious avocados in water well before you're ready to eat them will only further increase the chances of this happening.

Remember, not even refrigeration will stop the growth of certain types of harmful bacteria. "Dangerous bacteria like listeria and salmonella can be on the outside and will still grow even under cold conditions. While this could happen anytime, if you wash your avocado and then store it, that just gives the bacteria time to grow to dangerous levels," Craig says.

These are all things we want to avoid... right? So if you see this "hack" in your TikTok feed, keep scrolling, fam. But, now, let's turn to more pressing matters: how to keep avocados ripe for months and, more importantly, how to keep avocados from turning brown (even though eating brown avocado is considered safe, at least most of the time). Below, we've rounded up a few better ways to store your avocados that don't have the potential of giving you a foodborne illness. Avocado substitutes, who?

What is the best way to store avocados?

1. Place them in a food storage container

Okay, so here's the most obvious tip: Once you've figured out how to ripen avocados effectively and want to save a portion of its creamy goodness, simply pop it in an airtight food storage container or seal it with cling wrap to decrease its exposure to oxygen (which is the main culprit of turning an avocado brown). For a little extra boost of freshness, you can also rub it down with citrus, a tried-and-true trick of Chef Betsy Wiegand of Great White, a coastal-Californian restaurant. The ascorbic acid found in lemon and lime creates a barrier between your avocado and the air around it, keeping it fresh AF for days to come.

Don't have a squeeze of lemon on hand? Sealing the surface of an avocado by pressing down with plastic wrap to remove any trapped air will also help slow down oxidation (and browning) of your avocado.

2. Freeze your avocado in an ice tray

As the FDA notes, freezing your fruit doesn't strip it of any of its nutrients, which means you won't be missing out on any of the nutrients avocados have to offer if you need to pop them in the freezer before they get too mushy. The easiest way to get the job done? Enlist the help of an ice tray, especially once an avocado has been cut into. A few years back, we learned that you can mash avocado, spread it across an ice tray, and freeze it for summer smoothies. So smart. So consider that trick next time you buy a few too many ripe avos (or you can always try pickling avocados instead).

3. Freeze the whole avocado

If you can't be bothered with the ice cube tray trick (I hear you), go ahead and freeze the whole (!) avocado until you're ready to eat it. You can then run it under hot water, leave it to sit on the counter for a while, and enjoy it like it's a brand-new piece of fruit. Bam. And don't toss the pit! You can use 'em to make a cup of steamy hot avocado seed tea whenever you're ready for a zero-waste culinary moment. (Avocado seeds contain phytonutrients and antioxidants, including vitamin C, which help boost immunity and promote skin health.)

A few important safety kitchen hacks when handling avocados

Whether you freeze a whole avocado, cram it into a storage container, or spread it out into an ice tray, Craig says safely handling avocados from start to finish is priority number one. "Avocados are usually eaten without any cooking. Because they have no 'kill step' to get rid of dangerous bacteria, make sure you’re using clean tools, surfaces, etc., when prepping avocados so you don’t increase the risk of contamination," Craig says.

Not to stress you out, but Craig explains there's no such thing as a "safe amount of pathogen bacteria on your food." In fact, according to him, for at-risk populations, even a small amount of this bacteria could be dangerous or even deadly. Of course, this doesn't mean we should avoid avocados from here on out. Exerting a little extra precaution is more than enough. "Keep your knife and cutting board that you used for prepping your raw meat away or washed extremely well before handling and prepping your avocados," he says. This will help ensure the avocado shelf life is as long as possible.

Here's why avocados are so dang good for you (and worse the hefty price tag):

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Popa, Gabriela Loredana, and Mircea Ioan Papa. “Salmonella spp. infection – a continuous threat worldwide.” Germs vol. 11,1 88-96. 15 Mar. 2021, doi:10.18683/germs.2021.1244

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