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Can Street Food Be Hazardous to Your Health?

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In cities with a lot of foot traffic, food trucks and carts have become almost as common a sight as fire hydrants, with many offering high-end cuisine for people in a hurry. And while these mobile restaurants are held to the same standards as brick-and-mortar locations, not all have been able to meet them.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 27 percent of food trucks in Los Angeles earned less than an “A” grade from city health inspectors. That means more than 10 points were taken off of their 100-point scoring metric for code violations. In contrast, only 5 percent of the city’s fixed-location eateries failed to achieve that mark.

While the study was confined to Los Angeles, the factors that contributed to the food trucks' failing grade could be found in any city. In many cases, the tight working areas increased risk for cross-contamination of ingredients; some vendors handled money as well as food; storage temperatures can also fluctuate. In one case, being exposed to outdoor elements resulted in rodent infestation.

While they present a less forgiving preparation area, trucks aren't the only source of potential illness. In New York, up to 15 percent of stationary restaurants fail to earn an A. In Boston, 1350 of the area’s 3000 restaurants were found to have at least two infractions that could lead to food-borne illness in 2014.

If you opt for a bite outdoors, check to see if your area mandates vendors post their grades for public view, or if your county keeps a searchable list of inspected vendors online, like this one for Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. Since some health departments are only able to check portable kitchens during pre-scheduled times owing to the difficulty of locating them on a route [PDF], inquire whether inspectors have been able to witness food preparation unannounced.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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Don't Have Space For a Christmas Tree? Decorate a Pineapple Instead
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Christmas trees aren't for everyone. Some people can't fit a fir inside their cramped abodes, while others are turned off by the expense, or by the idea of bugs hitchhiking their way inside. Fake trees are always an option, but a new trend sweeping Instagram—pineapples as mini-Christmas "trees"—might convince you to forego the forest vibe for a more tropical aesthetic.

As Thrillist reports, the pineapple-as-Christmas-tree idea appears to have originated on Pinterest before it, uh, ripened into a social media sensation. Transforming a pineapple into a Halloween “pumpkin” requires carving and tea lights, but to make the fruit festive for Christmas all one needs are lights, ornaments, swaths of garland, and any other tiny tchotchkes that remind you of the holidays. The final result is a tabletop decoration that's equal parts Blue Hawaii and Miracle on 34th Street.

In need of some decorating inspiration? Check out a variety of “Christmas tree” pineapples below.

[h/t Thrillist]

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A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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