Romaine Lettuce Recalled After Another National E. Coli Outbreak

TomFoldes/iStock via Getty Images
TomFoldes/iStock via Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a food safety alert cautioning people against eating any romaine lettuce grown in Salinas, California, due to potential E. coli contamination. According to NBC Washington, 67 cases of E. coli have been reported so far, and 39 people have been hospitalized.

The recall applies to any product that contains Salinas-grown romaine lettuce, including whole heads or hearts of romaine, organic or baby romaine, salad wraps with romaine, and packages of pre-cut lettuce or salad mixes with romaine.

In a statement, the CDC explained that most romaine lettuce products name the harvest location on the label, which might be printed on a sticker or directly on the packaging. You should toss all romaine products grown in Salinas, as well as anything that doesn’t specify a harvest location at all. If you’re not sure if there’s romaine in your salad mix or wrap, don’t take the chance—throw it out. However, no cases have been linked to hydroponic or greenhouse-grown romaine, so anything labeled “indoor grown” is technically still safe to eat.

Though the CDC is also advising restaurants and retailers to exercise the same caution and get rid of any romaine that might be from Salinas, it’s best for consumers to look at the labels in stores themselves or double-check with restaurant employees just to make sure.

You should also thoroughly clean and disinfect any parts of your refrigerator where you’ve stored romaine lettuce, to prevent bacteria from hitching a ride on your delicious Thanksgiving leftovers.

And, even if you live several states away from California, there’s still a pretty good chance that Salinas-grown romaine is shipped to your region—the E. coli cases have been reported in 19 states across the country, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The Food and Drug Administration is still investigating the outbreak, but it has been confirmed that this particular strain of bacteria, E. coli O157:H7, is the same one responsible for recalls of leafy greens and romaine lettuce in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

[h/t NBC Washington]

12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

stockfour/iStock via Getty Images
stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

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Peaches Purchased From Target and ALDI Are Being Recalled For Possible Salmonella Contamination

A.R.T.Paola, Unsplash
A.R.T.Paola, Unsplash

As of this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that 68 people across nine states—including Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin—have fallen ill with Salmonella poisoning. The likely culprit is peaches.

CNN reports that the outbreak has been linked to peaches from Wawona Packing Company sold in 2-pound clear plastic bags. Since a number of patients bought them from ALDI, the grocery store has issued a recall of organic and regular Wawona-brand peaches from stores in about 20 states, including New York, Florida, Michigan, Virginia, and South Dakota. You can see if your state is on the list here.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, some sick Minnesotans had bought their peaches from Target or other stores, and Target is also supposedly working on removing Wawona peaches from its shelves.

In other words: We don’t yet know the extent of the outbreak, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) investigation is ongoing. Because it’s still unclear where the contaminated peaches have been sold, you should avoid buying any Wawona-brand peaches right now. If you have any at home, throw them away—and if you’ve frozen any fresh peaches since June 1 and can’t remember what brand they are, it’s probably best to toss those, too.

You can find out more about the FDA investigation and check for future updates here.

[h/t CNN]