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Posted in Food Safety on August 19, 2023
Everyone’s heard this TikTok intro. “Show me the life hack…” It is usually followed by some interesting technique someone has found to make their life easier. Sometimes it is simple. Sometimes it is thought provoking. Sometimes it is just plain silly. This particular one, Tik Tok Avocado Hack, is not such a good idea.
This video sharing platform is full of funny shorts lasting from 60 seconds to 4 minutes reminiscent of Vines. Personally, I have incorporated some of these “life-hacks” into my daily life. Such as making an aluminum foil bowl in the sink drain to catch and cool drained grease so that it can be thrown away or using a pillowcase to clean the dust from a ceiling fan. I now use ice cubes to remove candlewax and store ground beef in flattened Ziploc bags with score marks to allow me to break off 1/4lb at a time.
But some of these “challenges” and “life hacks can be quite dangerous
Dangerous Challenges on TikTok
We all remember the Tide Pod Challenge responsible for so many adolescent poisonings. And the challenge where students would post videos of slapping teachers rear ends leading to expulsions. Not to mention the “Setting Yourself on Fire” challenge where people stood in the shower and poured lighter fluid on themselves before setting themselves aflame. So many ERs saw that challenge gone wrong.
Social media can be a great place to get recipes and expand your culinary appetite. Quick 60 second videos of recipe may give you ideas for dinner. Or even ways to cut or prepare ingredients are a positive contribution. But not all food related videos are safe.
Enter the Need for an Avocado Hack
An amazing life hack that indicated we do not need to risk cutting our palms stabbing at the avocado like many of us were trained to do to remove the pit by pushing against the peel and popping it out instead has reduced many a trip to the emergency room.
But the latest avocado-based life hack can cause more harm than good.
The Fight Against Oxidation
As soon as the avocado is cut, it is exposed to oxygen. This oxygen gets to work on compounds inside the avocado. This chemical reaction is known as oxidation. It can rust metal, turn copper green, and make your avocado brown.
Even before the avocado is cut, the skin slowly allows oxygen to permeate, causing it to become brown and mushy. The joke in our household is that avocados age like milk. Though I do believe even milk has a longer shelf-life than the avocado.
Over the years, people have tried so many ways to preserve the green on their unused portion of avocado. From drizzling with lemon juice to covering with onion slices to tightly wrapping with saran wrap. All of these options do a fair job at reducing the rate of oxidation.
To keep the avocado as a whole fresher longer there are storage placement strategies such as keeping it away from bananas or placing in a sealed air-tight container, even wrapping in saran wrap to keep out the aging agent, oxygen.
A seemingly innocent addition to this list comes from ShamaMama Healing who posted onTikTok in March 2022. The video that had over six million views has since been removed from the platform. In this video, the original poster shows that all you have to do to keep avocados fresh longer is to store them in a container of water.
In this video, the poster had four avocados in a closed jar of water stored in the refrigerator. She pulled out an avocado and indicated that it was more than two weeks beyond typical ripe date. She then proceeded to cut open the fruit and reveal the ripe, green color inside. The poster claims that this method can keep the avocado fresh for up to a month. Sounds amazing, right? While the color may be beautiful, danger lurks beyond.
FDA Warns Against This Practice
Despite the potential for maintaining the color, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns this can be a very dangerous practice.
“The FDA does not recommend this practice,” a spokesperson said in a statement to Newsweek. “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 preservation solution becomes a growth medium for harmful bacteria.
Research performed by FDA scientist found that this process allows Listeria monocytogenes to travel from the skin of the avocado into the pulp where it can grow in harmful numbers. “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.”
This study found that 17.73% of the 1,615 avocado skin samples tested were positive for Listeria monocytogenes. But Listeria isn’t the only baddie to look out for. The FDA has found Salmonella in 12 avocado skin samples from domestically grown products that have lead to facility inspections and voluntary recalls.
Sometimes Life Hacks Are Too Good to be True
Sometimes the phrase, “when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is” rings true. While it might sound like a great life hack, and indeed the color and perceived freshness is maintained, this method for keeping avocados beyond their prime falls into that category.
Safe Avocado Preservation Methods
Looking for a safe avocado preservation method? Try freezing them. Freezing locks in freshness and inhibits most harmful bacterial growth. The thawing process may present some browning depending on how quickly the pulp is frozen and thawed.
Dice avocados and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place in the freezer and transfer to a Ziploc bag or air-tight storage container and store in the freezer. Thaw just before use.
Like mashed avocado or avocado toast? Mash the avocado and add a little bit of lemon juice. Place in a Ziploc bag and press flat. Score the bag in even spaces and freeze. Small pieces can be broken off for use later. Thaw just before use.
By: Heather Van Tassell