In August of 2012, Meryl Streep made headlines by raising awareness of an issue that impacts thousands, if not millions across the globe. Was it clean drinking water? Climate change? An impassioned speech about the role of art in a politically charged climate? Nope—none of the above.
Streep became the unwitting ambassador of an issue that is far closer to home for home cooks: avocado hand. You may not have heard of this medical condition, but you or someone you know has almost certainly been affected by it. And now, the medical community is finally speaking out about the dangers of avocado hand.
Speaking to The Times, Simon Eccles—secretary and former president of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons—said that he sees "four patients a week" with avocado hand, a.k.a. a serious cut to the hand procured while attempting to remove the pit or peel from an avocado. So why are so many home cooks being maimed while prepping their alligator pears?
Well, for starters, avocados are so popular that the word "Guacalypse" has become part of the modern lexicons. But there are also some structural issues that make everybody's favorite fatty fruit particularly dangerous. Think Dr. Eccles is exaggerating? Think again. After asking a few friends whether they'd ever been afflicted, I quickly heard multiple anecdotes supporting the frequency of these types of injuries.
"I had to go to the [emergency room] and get three stitches and I have lost most of the sensation in my finger," Freya Watson, a 29-year-old TV producer in London, told MUNCHIES, referring to her own experience with avocado hand. "And when I was in the [emergency room], there was a woman with the exact same injury."
Social media is littered with documentation of these types of injuries, many under Instagram hashtags such as #avocadoinjury. Just look at these avocado-induced wounds from around Instagram and Flickr:
"People do not anticipate that the avocados they buy can be very ripe and there is minimal understanding of how to handle them," Eccles told The Times, adding that labels might be the most effective way of mitigating avocado hand. "We don't want to put people off the fruit, but I think warning labels are an effective way of dealing with this. It needs to be recognizable. Perhaps we could have a cartoon picture of an avocado with a knife, and a big red cross going through it?"
It's not inconceivable that avocado peels could become the cigarette packages of the fruit world, covered in warnings about cutting yourselves (or maybe just warning of the threat of becoming so basic that you are annoying those around you with your constant talk of avocados).
Jokes aside, to reiterate: Improper handling of an avocado can land you in the ER with a fucked up hand. So, next time you're de-stoning one, remember to use a flat surface, run the knife gently through the skin and around the pit, and then carefully remove the stone with a towel, or the blade of the knife. Don't become just another avocado statistic.
Additional reporting by Hilary Pollack.
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in May 2017.