You're Probably Not Washing Your Reusable Water Bottle Enough

iStock.com/Paulo Resende
iStock.com/Paulo Resende

Carrying a reusable water bottle is an economical and eco-friendly choice. By not lugging around one-time-use plastic bottles, you're reducing waste headed to landfills and saving money on water that flows freely from your tap. (Unless, of course, you own a home and have to pay the water bill.) Whether they're made of glass, have a filter, or come insulated, the bottles carry clear advantages over crates of packaged water.

As beneficial as these bottles are, they tend to lull consumers into a sense of false security. Since only water goes in them, there's a pervasive feeling that they don't need to be washed often. Some users may not even wash them at all. As Reader's Digest contributor Lisa Marie Conklin points out, that's not a good idea.

Conklin spoke with microbiologist Miryam Z. Wahrman, Ph.D., a professor of biology at William Paterson University, to get some insight on why washing reusable bottles should be a habit. For one thing, Wahrman notes, people sipping from the nozzle frequently have traces of food in their mouth that can migrate to the bottle and the remaining water inside. Any germs in or around your mouth can also find their way into the supply. The next time you drink—an hour or a day later—you're consuming that potentially unfriendly bacteria.

Those microbes can begin to proliferate in stagnant water, especially if it's left inside a hot car, in front of a sun-exposed window, or other places where a warm environment can contribute to their growth. Bottles can also pick up all the same germs transmitted by your hands during a typical day.

To avoid contamination, it's best to wash your bottle daily with soap and water. Michigan State University advises filling the bottle with water and dish soap and letting it soak for several minutes. It's also a good idea to empty the bottle if you're not going to be using it for extended periods.

[h/t Reader's Digest]

General Mills Is Recalling More Than 600,000 Pounds of Gold Medal Flour Over E. Coli Risk

jirkaejc/iStock via Getty Images
jirkaejc/iStock via Getty Images

The FDA recently shared news of a 2019 product recall that could impact home bakers. As CNN reports, General Mills is voluntarily recalling 600,000 pounds of its Gold Medal Unbleached All-Purpose Flour due to a possible E. coli contamination.

The decision to pull the flour from shelves was made after a routine test of the 5-pound bags. According to a company statement, "the potential presence of E. coli O26" was found in the sample, and even though no illnesses have been connected to Gold Medal flour, General Mills is recalling it to be safe.

Escherichia coli O26 is a dangerous strain of the E. coli bacterium that's often spread through commercially processed foods. Symptoms include abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Most patients recover within a week, but in people with vulnerable immune systems like young children and seniors, the complications can be deadly.

To avoid the potentially contaminated batch, look for Gold Medal flour bags with a "better if used by" date of September 6, 2020 and the package UPC 016000 196100. All other products sold under the Gold Medal label are safe to consume.

Whether or not the flour in your pantry is affected, the recall is a good reminder that consuming raw flour can be just as harmful as eating raw eggs. So when you're baking cookies, resist having a taste until after they come out of the oven—or indulge in one of the many edible cookie dough products on the market instead.

[h/t CNN]

Doctors at a British Hospital Are Now Prescribing Houseplants for Depression

Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images
Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images

You don’t have to take a trip to the countryside to reap the mental health benefits of being around nature—a single plant might just do the trick (as long as you can keep it alive).

Fast Company reports that the Cornbrook Medical Practice in Manchester, England, is one of the first in the country to prescribe houseplants to help treat anxiety and depression. It’s part of a horticultural therapy program led by a local nonprofit called Sow the City, which leads initiatives to foster community gardens in Manchester.

It’s just as much about building a sense of community through gardening as it is about the therapeutic advantages of caring for your own house plants. “There’s evidence that people who are socially isolated have worse health outcomes,” Sow the City director Jon Ross told Fast Company. The organization has also assisted Cornbrook Medical Practice in establishing its own herb garden, which patients are welcome to help maintain. Ross and his team work closely with doctors at different offices to optimize each garden for its particular clientele—sometimes, that means building a small, flora-filled sanctuary that’s just for rest and relaxation.

Other times, it’s a fully-fledged vegetable garden. For a “Hospital Beds” program at another hospital, Sow the City installed raised vegetable beds where long-term mental illness patients can soak in some sunlight, socialize with each other, and take pride in seeing the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors flourish. There’s an added physical health benefit, too: The patients get to eat the produce. “We really don’t have good food in our public hospitals,” Ross said.

Sow the City also makes sure that no green thumbs are necessary to participate in any gardening party. Its members populate the gardens with already-healthy, easy-to-tend plants, and they’ll even train patients on how to care for them.

If you’re thinking a garden might improve your own quality of life—doctor’s orders or not—here are 10 easy-to-grow plants for first-time gardeners.

[h/t Fast Company]

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