Trust us when we say you should read this.

Perri Ormont Blumberg
March 1, 2018


Egg salad with fresh parsley. Basil-pumpkin seed pesto. Lemon-cilantro vinaigrette. Guacamole. Oh green, verdant things, how we love you.

But before you race to the grocery store to pick up the fresh herbs basil, cilantro, and parsley or a package of guac, you may want to hit the pause button and read on.

In fall of 2017, the Food and Drug Administration, better known as the FDA, set out to look for irksome bacteria in these three fresh herbs and packaged guacamole. The hopes are that the research will help scientists determine how and when contamination happens, and findings from the first round of testing have now been made public.

Of the 139 samples of fresh herbs that scientists examined, four had salmonella and three had E. Coli. It's worth noting that most of the herbs the FDA tested were imported from other countries (104 out of 139), and all of the contaminated samples were from the imported group. 

Meanwhile, out of 107 processed avocado (such as when it's sold pre-cut or frozen) and guacamole samples, four tested positive for listeria. (Of the 58 domestic samples, three tested positive for listeria, and of the 49 imported samples, one tested positive for listeria.) You can see more on their research and methodology here.

Craig W. Hedberg, PhD, a food safety expert at the University of Minnesota, told NPR that the presence of these contaminants is "an indication that companies need to pay more attention to sanitation in their plants." While washing fresh herbs may minimize the bacteria you're exposed to, it won't completely get rid of it. Regardless, it's still a very important safety measure to always wash your fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables. We repeat: Wash your herbs and produce.

While FDA testing is slated to continue throughout 2019 and thus no formal analyses of overall contamination rates can be made yet, the results aren't that encouraging. Guess we'll be skipping that parsley garnish on our egg salad today.