/ Food & Drink

Update: avocado hand – should the fruit come with a warning sticker?


You’d have thought we’d know how to cut an avocado by now, but for some, getting one of their five-a-day can result in them losing a finger. Surely we don’t need warning stickers on our fruit… Or do we?

It’s Sunday, 11am, and I’m sat in one of my favourite south London eateries with my girlfriend. As we excitedly scan the brunch menu (yes, I’m one of those – don’t worry, it gets worse), me sipping my almond flat white (told you), my other half places her order. ‘I’ll have the smashed avocado on rye bread.’ (she’s just as bad).

Yum! I had the shakshuka, in case you were wondering.

Far from simply treating my partner to a fancy mid-morning meal, by leaving the house and having a professional prepare us some food, it actually turns out I’m protecting us both from inflicting a horrendous injury on ourselves.

Gone are the days when brunch was seen as a delicacy reserved for the metropolitan elite. Today, it’s a case of self-preservation.

It’s been a week and a half since a number of A&E departments reported a trend in brunch-related injuries; specifically in the preparation of avocado – the breakfast fruit favourite of city folk. Unfortunately, it seems they aren’t capable of safely cutting and destoning it themselves.

Avocado hand

The epidemic, being labelled ‘avocado hand’, has prompted health professionals having to treat the walking wounded – and hungry – to suggest the issuing of safety warnings.

Simon Eccles, honorary secretary of British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (Bapras) said: ‘There is minimal understanding of how to handle them. Perhaps we could have a cartoon picture of an avocado with a knife, and a big red cross going through it?’

Is this the world gone mad? Perhaps it’s something those brave enough to make avocado and poached eggs should seriously consider before picking up a knife.

Would you pay any attention to a warning sticker on an avocado? Do you have any battle scars where you’ve managed to accidentally impale yourself on a kitchen utensil?

Before signing off, and in an attempt to keep our community safe from the mouthwatering menace that is avocado, we wanted to share our tips for destoning and enjoying avocados safely.

Tip 1 Scoop out the stone with a spoon.

Tip 2 Hack down onto the stone with a knife so the middle of the blade (not the tip) just penetrates the surface, then twist to remove.

Tip 3 Invest in an avocado tool (yes, there really are such things – Google it!).

Update: 8 December 2017

Marks & Spencer may just have solved the problem of ‘avocado hand’, if only for Christmas, by launching stoneless avocados.

The supermarket’s new ‘cocktail avocados’, which will only be on sale in December, come without the perilous stone and can be eaten skin and all, so you don’t even have to peel them. If that doesn’t appeal, you can simply cut off one end and squeeze out the flesh.

Grown in Spain and measuring just 5-8cm in length, the groundbreaking fruit is the result of an unpollinated avocado blossom, which develops without the seed.


” The problem may not be at endemic levels, but at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, Mr Eccles says he treats about four patients a week with avocado hand. And at St Thomas’s hospital in London, staff have actually become accustomed to the “post-brunch surge” on Saturdays, the Times reports.”

I look forward to the warning on fat splatter at nudist camps around the UK : )

Is Which? proposing a section on dealing with vegetables and fruit safely? It might be an added reason to be a subscriber if you can confidently use Which? for advice on many matters. And it could be linked to the report on best splatter guard, and avocado tool.

To remove an avocado stone from a half avocado, hold the avocado with one hand and twist a corkscrew into the stone for a few turns with the other, then pull firmly.

The consequences of taking learning to cook and food management off the curriculum come back to cut us on the hand…

We just need a few headlines, you tube videos and good cookery programmes to put us back on track and avoiding the worst of the gory damage but it will take us much longer to teach people how to feed themselves and their families easy and nutritional food as more than one generation have lost the skills. School is not the only place of learning. Here is where Granny and Grandad could be very useful teachers.

I took the end off a finger with a mandolin because I wasn’t careful enough. Several years later I braved the machine again and I’m really not sure it is worth the bother. It would have been better to have learnt really good knife skills instead.

I had not appreciated the danger of mandolins, only that there is too much violins on TV.

Almost anything that is tricky or risky has a plethora of instructions and tips on-line nowadays, including the notoriously fiendish avocado preparation experience. What none of them say is whether, with sharp knife in hand, one should address the avocado lengthwise or crosswise. Perhaps it makes no difference but I think twisting the fruit to expose the stone would be easier across the width than along the length . . . just a poser to prolong this intensely fascinating discussion. They probably look better served as two matching halves than as a top and a bottom. Avocado aficionados would probably benefit from investing in a chain-mail glove of the sort worn by butchers; this would take a lot of the pressure off A&E and help the country get back on its feet.

What else is there to do on a Sunday morning in London than admit to balsamic vinegar anxiety, or try to resolve the quinoa pronunciation conundrum? At last, the ever-resourceful avocado has provided a new topic of metropolitan discourse. Stone me! Whatever next!?

Personally I can’t stand the taste of avocado, smashed or otherwise, and don’t even think of putting guacamole on the table.

Looking for something completely different, I saw that Amazon offer a number of ‘cut resistant gloves’. I am taking up the carpet on the stairs and landing in an old house and it is incredibly tough. I cannot cut it with any tools I have and it is awkward to get in the corners and edges so I have ordered a specialist knife and scissors and while I was at it I included a pair of “NoCry Cut Resistant Gloves with Secure-Grip Microdots and Level 5 Cut Protection. Comfort-Fit. Food Grade, Size Medium. Includes Free eCookbook!“. I have already reduced my fingernails to shreds and taken the skin off my knuckles so hopefully this equipment will do the job and then be useful in the kitchen for the occasional avocado.

For those incapable of using common sense, try holding the halved avocado (assuming you have managed to cut it thus without severing an artery) with an oven glove before chopping into the stone with a (sharp) knife and rwisting it free.

I wonder how many of us have managed to survive diy all these years – chisels (keep both hands behind the edge), circular saws – use the guard…….. We ran courses in a factory for the workers to keep them (relatively) safe – for their benefit and the insurers. A basic lesson was not to point a screwdriver towards your other hand when tightening a screw – it can slip and make a hole.

From some of the avocadoes I have been given to eat in restaurants it is obvious that the not everybody serving them knows (or cares) when they are ripe. Much of the fruit and vegetables sold isn’t ripe when it leaves the shop and needs time to ripen before being eaten.

I cut all around the stone lengthwise and twist so that it comes apart in two halves. I then cut it into quarters and the stone is easy to remove. I then peel the skin off each quarter. There’s no flesh left on the skin!

Would one chain mail glove suffice? Surely they’d be sold in pairs, solely to accommodate for the left-handed population?

You need a Daunt. Stronger than a Gauntlet and much more fun…

That’s great. You could also show how if you peel the skin off rather than scooping the flesh out you make the most of the flesh. This of course always depends on you choosing a ripe avocado to start with. I think this is really what the problem is. You can’t smash or mash a hard avocado. Are there more of the dark rough skinned avocadoes around now than the thinner skinned green ones? The dark rough skinned Haas ones are a bit harder to tell if ripe. Avocadoes are one of the fruits that can be marked down and left on sale when they are overripe and I would consider them inedible even in guacamole.

Interestingly I learnt recently that the stone might be better for you than the flesh. However my ancient Robotchef isn’t strong enough to pulverise the stone and is best for grating carrots. When it dies I shall be looking for a replacement that can do more. The stone doesn’t taste very nice though and would need to be mixed in with a smoothie.

With acknowledgement and apologies to Monty Python (and any convo regulars whose names are used here):

WC: Today on Which? Conversation we’ll be carrying on from where we got to last week when we were showing you how to defend yourselves against anyone who attacks you with armed with a piece of fresh fruit.

Ian: Oh, you promised you wouldn’t do fruit this week.

WC: What do you mean?

malcolm_r: We’ve done fruit the last nine weeks.

WC: What’s wrong with fruit? You think you know it all, eh?

wavechange: Can’t we do something else for a change?

DerekP: Like someone who attacks you with a pointed stick?

WC: Pointed stick? Oh, oh, oh. We want to learn how to defend ourselves against pointed sticks, do we? Getting all high and mighty, eh? Fresh fruit not good enough for you eh? Well I’ll tell you something my lad. When you’re walking home tonight and some homicidal maniac comes after you with an avocado , don’t come crying to me! Now, the avocado . When your assailant lunges at you with an avocado …

We have a serious subject that could avoid people chopping their arteries and Derek takes our names in vein.

‘Av-a-car-do, Derek! Much enjoyed.

I eat a lot of avocados and would generally consider myself to be pretty clumsy but I have never suffered any injury preparing them and have never needed instruction on how to do so! Are people so daft that they cannot work this out for themselves? I certainly never learnt at home as avocados had barely been heard of in those days. I just cut lengthways around the stone, twist the two halves apart and flip the stone out (pointed away from me and fingers out of the way) with the point of the knife.

Yep, me too 🥑

Thought April 1st had come round again !!!

Now I could understand injuries trying to get the skin off a butternut squash 🔪🔨⛏

Londoners …. that is why nearly endemic not epidemic – as it relates to a certain group of people.

I too thought April 1st had come round again – this reminded me of @aporter‘s spoon article (which still cracks me up).

I’ve never encountered any painful run-ins with an avocado, but plenty a time peeling butternut squash or potatoes.

Hi Andrew – We don’t see you around here much these days. Potato peelers are a safer option for dealing with potatoes, or simply scrub the skins with a pan scourer.

Thank you @dsamways, think I would use cinnamon for flavour.

Hi wavechange, long time no see! I know, it’s been a tad busy in Which? Computing this year but I’ll try to show my face on Which? Convo a little more frequently in future 🙂

I forgot to mention those run-ins with the butternut squash and potatoes involved a peeler -most recently a few minor injuries to the thumb (I attempted a three course meal for ten friends – hard work)!

@carneades – Good tip about the daunt! I’ll keep this in mind 🙂

It had not occurred to me that the peelers in the kitchen drawer could pose a threat but apparently they are a recognised risk. Many years ago I learned that tea cosies and socks are other dangers lurking in the home.

Not to mention toilet roll holders, doors, windows, carpets, bare wood floors, next door’s cat and the milkman.

Now you’ve got me fascinated by risky unusual household items from the 1990’s 🤓 :


I bet the staff working who have to deal with these problems must find it difficult not to laugh at times.

Em says:
21 May 2017

What next? Mangoes? Peaches? Potatoes?

It’s the person holding the knife that is dangerous, not the fruit.

I suspect this is a day when editors couldn’t find much to publish. Try looking beyond the boarders of the UK, and I don’t mean Donald Trump, for newsworthy stories if you want to avoid sloppy, lazy journalism.

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Em says:
21 May 2017

Absolutely right Duncan.

Manufacturers and service providers have a duty not to design and sell products that are knowingly unsafe (e.g. cars, tumble driers) and deserve everything they get. But the idea that you could hold suppliers liable for selling a “tricky” avocado or other unripe stone fruit in its natural state is ludicrous.

Putting a sticker on a fruit doesn’t make it any less dangerous, or provide any useful function in teaching people how to use a knife properly – it’s just another “CYA” in case someone tries to sue.

And how would you prove that the sticker was attached to the particular fruit in question? Will you have to sign a disclaimer at the checkout to prove you were made aware of the risks?

That might seem a stupid thought to us but, no doubt, the corporate lawyers are already working on that one. Have you checked the small print on the back of a till receipt lately?

I’m going to disagree. 🙂 I believe that it is useful to help people learn to carry out tasks in a safer way. I hope no-one tries to take action against greengrocers or supermarkets, but if we can help cut down the number of accidents with information about how to tackle an avocado, why not?

Em says:
28 May 2017

I’m not disagreeing that alerting the public to new dangers is a bad thing. But avocados have been a mainstream food for 40 years or more. The problem is that people are not being taught basic life skills any more. And no one seems interested in learning from primary sources.

So issues have to be presented in little bite-sized snippets, hoping that they will go viral on Internet social media, news feeds or traditional media via “press releases”.

The trouble is that this method of dissemination is incredibly inefficient (just look at the size of this convo to bring it to the attention of a select handful of Which? subscribers). It suppresses other less “worthy” issues, and most of the dross published or re-Tweeted is totally devoid of any useful information. Of 100 people that become aware of “avocado hand”, what percentage of those actually take the trouble to find out how to handle a knife properly?

The main reason there is a rise in these accidents is because avocados have become trendy. Once this latest fad has passed, it will join all the other non-issues, like the risk of burning yourself using a fondue set.

Why isn’t as much attention and effort put into improving driver education? There are 500 road casualties in the UK every day. It seems wrong to me to focus on the impact avocados are having on A&E departments when this daily carnage goes unnoticed.

Preparing avocados is a lifestyle choice that is easily avoided. Using dangerous public roads is not. And no doubt, some of these road casualties are being caused by inattentive drivers keeping up with this barrage of infotainment on their mobile phones.

I thought “Avocado hand” was the title of a new horror movie…

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It’d be a rather interesting horror film, Ian… – What’d be the plot? 🥑👻

Same lines as ‘The Fly’, probably. Innocent young girl slowly turns into a man-eating fruit…

Sounds like a box office hit! 😀

I don’t do well with blood and even talking about it makes me uncomfortable. I take great care with knives and other sharp tools and honestly cannot remember the last time I cut myself. My approach is to cut round the avocado, twist it apart and cut the half with the seed into two, making it easy to remove.

Here is a video showing a tool that does not have a sharp knife. No doubt other brands are available. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYxFkS-DjyY

I don’t use a knife for de-stoning. I prefer holding the avocado half – with the stone facing downwards to let gravity help me out – and gently squeezing the skin. The stone then pops out from underneath – usually, very easily and taking little of the flesh with it! No risk of bloody hands in the process either…

Good tip @melmassey! I’m guilty of the knife ‘trick’… I’ve not yet caused myself any harm from this, but will give the gravity method a go. I’ve also seen people use a tea spoon to get the stone out.

Incidentally, I’ve nearly taken a finger off when chopping parsnips – all down to a blunt knife, it’s really important to have a sharp knife that can actually cut and not slip off the veg you’re chopping!

Parsnips, eh? I’ll add those to the list…

I’m disappointed that Betterware does not currently offer a safety parsnip cutter but they do have a sock organiser and a toilet bowl light.

I laughed out loud when reading that, Wavechange. This is the problem with trying to live in an age of austerity – what not to buy next. I neglected to open the last Betterware catalogue so missed these opportunities; the agent was most miffed when he called to collect the orders that the catalogue was pristine and the order form vacant. Perhaps next time.

Wavechange – Without wishing to go too far off topic, or over the edge even, permit me to enquire into the purpose of a ‘toilet bowl light’. And, once again, I need to know if it has a motion sensor.

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Sounds like they’re good to nip in and out in a hurry.

Having had a look at the online Betterware catalogue there is the opportunity to add a choice of tools for tackling avocados in relative safety. Maybe Lakeland have taken over marketing items we did not realise we needed. They have silicone lids shaped to store half avocados with the stone in place. Why not have complementary ones for avocado halves minus stones? Or offer sets containing both lids.

I have managed to avoid Betterware agents for years now, although I bought a couple of excellent marker pens for plastic that are still working after probably 20 years.

John will be pleased to know the toilet bowl light has a motion sensor and comes in blue or pink https://www.betterware.co.uk/toilet-bowl-light.html
Whatever next !!!

For Betterware to fail to recognise the opportunity to sell devices for safe handling of avocados is very disappointing. Maybe their should change their name slightly and move into quality clothing.

There are companies that specialise in products for the disabled so maybe there is an opportunity for a small company to identify the safest potato peeler, avocado de-stoner and various other household items.

Let’s trust they don’t get their target audiences confused and start marketing an all-in-one toilet bowl light, parsnip cutter and Mohel set.

Thank you, Alfa.

It had not occurred to me that Betterware had progressed to the internet. I remember in the 1950’s when their agent [or was it the Kleeneze salesman] would regularly press my mother into buying some new-fangled brush for making every part of our home spick and span; no catalogue was required – he came with an enormous suitcase bursting with cloths and polishes, brushes and dusters, and mops that made the lino gleam. He demonstrated the products, took orders and brought them round a few weeks later. I assumed things were still as they were except they leave a catalogue now and pester you for its return.

I’ve got a small tool that would substitute for the latter instrument in an emergency, Ian. It has a scissor-like action and must have been designed as some sort of decapitator.

Another instrument of torture in our kitchen is the 1940’s Spong runner bean slicer that has to be clamped to the counter with a thumbscrew; a handle rotates a circular blade with a cutter that slivers the pliant bean ready for the pan. One can get up quite a speed and push beans in continuously with the left hand while the right is merríly turning the handle. An errant finger pushing a fat bean in the slot would soon be sliced to smithereens. There should be a public amnesty for these things with colour-coded bins outside all police stations.

I note from the link Alfa has given that the Betterware toilet bowl light is indeed “motion activated”; that’s a relief! So long as a bell doesn’t ring as well.

Yes, using blunt knives in the kitchen is considered to be pretty dangerous.

I had a really good can opener bought from the RNIB for a blind parent. When it cuts around the tin it turns the edge under so it isn’t sharp. So there are places for clever implements.

I need one of those because we like grapefruit segments and for some reason, unlike other canned fruits, they generally don’t come in ring-pull cans and our can-opener never seems to complete the circle with a clean edge and a lid without a sharp nib on it.

Look for a can opener that cuts the sides rather than the top of the can, so that there is nothing to restrict removal of the contents. I think the RNIB can opener operates in this way. Another advantage is that the lid cannot fall into the can. I really must replace my old fashioned can opener.

Thanks, Wavechange. . . . . Now, where has that Betterware catalogue gone?

I had hoped that Which? would provide guidance. Maybe if someone produces ones with WiFi we will get some useful reviews. I believe that the side-cutting openers can be used on ring-pull cans, so would be useful to anyone who finds these a challenge.

With most fruit containing big stones [peaches, plums, apricots] the stone is free of any attachment to the flesh when the fruit is perfectly ripe. Is this not the case with the avocado? Would it not be better to wait until it is ripe enough to extract the stone effortlessly? I would expect the occasional avocado to be more palatable then anyway.

I will hazard a guess, John. The avocado stone is smooth, so there is nothing for a tool or fingers to grip. Attempting to remove it from a half avocado will create a vacuum that will pull it back to its original position. I may do some investigation but not until I have bought a new first aid kit.

My tip – don’t eat avocados. 😉

They are an acquired taste that I have yet to acquire. Like cabbage and mayonnaise, I would never buy them.

Tuna mixed with MAYO, lemon, chilli and a dash of this and that makes avocado palatable.

I disagree, Alfa. Nothing can make avocado palatable – although I have not tried it yet with Marmite and golden syrup.

mrs r was put off avocados when she was taken out for dinner (before she met mr r) and it was unripe and hard; that is what she thought avocados were like. Now, having been introduced to ripe ones she is an avocado advocate. When we are home a bit late and don’t want to cook a favourite meal is two halves with prawns, seafood sauce, and chopped salad with brown bread and butter and a glass of white. We still have a full complement of fingers.

The kitchen like my workshop is full of potentially dangerous implements and tools. The way some people talk you’d wonder how we all manage to escape unscathed for so long.

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