Letters to the editor, June 2002

This article was originally published in June 2002

PCC values

In light of recent discussions of membership benefits, I wanted to express my core motives for joining PCC:

  1. to take part in a crucial voice of dissent to our lawmakers and corporations, and as expressed in social action (such as the Farmland Fund), and
  2. to encourage (and derive personal benefit from) the greater offering of vegan products PCC provides than that typically available to consumers, for the purpose of supporting this environmentally sustainable and compassionate lifestyle.

Having lived in the French Alps and the Venezuelan Andes, where this type of cooperative does not exist, I feel grateful that PCC membership makes it easy to fulfill my responsibilities as a world citizen. Discounts and coupons are icing on the cake. Expanded membership, despite any growing pains, ultimately translates to a more impactful presence for social change. My thanks go out to all those who make this a reality!
— Michelle DeLappe


I enjoyed Cameron Woodworth’s story “A quick schooling in eco-friendly fish,” but wonder if the conclusion that it’s OK to eat some fish and not others is really the best one. For a long time I’ve thought that PCC should not be in the business of selling any type of non-vegan food such as chicken, fish, pork, dairy and beef. No matter how well-intentioned we are, when we choose a free-range style of meat/fish, we’re still doing immeasurable damage to the planet (and our own health) by making that choice. I highly recommend John Robbins newest book “The Food Revolution” for more background on this issue.

“By their choices, consumers can either help heal or restore the oceans, or add to their continued degradation and problems,” says Carl Safina, director of the National Audubon Society’s Living Oceans Program. All I can think is — the best solution would be to stop selling and eating fish altogether. Right? That would be the best way to allow these species to return to their original numbers.
— Albert Kaufman

Phosphoric acid in soda

My concern is about PCC carrying Thomas Kemper root beer flavor sodas. Besides the usual questionable ingredients — artificial flavors to go with the sassafras, high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient after water even though the label boasts “honey sweetened,” preservatives, even added salt! — this product contains phosphoric acid.

Consumption of phosphoric acid in soda drinks is strongly linked with loss of bone density; it may be particularly harmful for the teens and young women who are among those most likely to consume large quantities of sodas, according to numerous reputable studies.

The soda industry is of course frantically trying to counter these findings and correlation is not necessarily causation, but independent sources seem virtually unanimous that this is a real concern that should be taken seriously. Two websites that appear independent and reliable are: http://orthopedics.about.com/cs/osteoporosis/, click on “Osteoporosis & Young Women;” and www.hsph.harvard.edu/press/releases/, enter “phosphoric acid” in the search box and click on the first release that comes up.

I believe PCC’s own Sound Consumer publication has covered this danger as well. (editor’s note: also see Healthnotes, on PCC’s website; scroll to osteoporosis.)

So why is PCC wasting valuable shelf space on this badly formulated product? None of Thomas Kemper’s other soda products have phosphoric acid that I am aware, and good old A&W Root Beer (now owned by Dr. Pepper/7-Up) for one formulates their fine tasting product without it, so this unhealthy ingredient is completely unnecessary.

At the very least, a sign should be posted by the PCC soda shelves to alert consumers who may assume what you carry is reasonably free of serious health risks, and/or who may be unable to read the tiny print on the ingredient label. (Our family includes shoppers who fit both these categories; unfortunately PCC’s motto seems to be becoming “caveat emptor and bring the magnifying glass.”)

Couldn’t PCC help pressure Thomas Kemper to reformulate? Or at least stock A&W also as a healthier alternative, since it is also “very low sodium”?!? (Yes, I know, the irony of it all …) Thank you,
— Beckey Sukovaty

Stephanie Steiner,
PCC Grocery Merchandiser replies:
I’ve been in contact with Thomas Kemper regarding your questions and have asked them to reformulate their items. The brand manager has booked a meeting with the brewer to discuss the possibility, and they will get back to us as soon as they can.

PCC will evaluate this item after we’ve given them the ability to correct the problem. If they cannot make the changes we’ve asked for, we will consider the various ways to address the situation, and which one best serves the interests of our members. Thank you very much for bringing this to our attention.

Baby diapers changing

We are members and have been buying Nature Boy and Girl diapers from PCC stores for the last year. The package claims to be environmentally friendly and we thought that this meant an all natural product. I have just learned yesterday that these diapers contain Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP), a chemical substance that is used in other commercial disposable diapers. This substance, which turns to gel when it absorbs moisture, also winds up against the baby’s skin. There are a number of health concerns about SAP.

You can read about some of the concerns about SAP at www.thenappylady.co.uk/html/sodium_polymer_salts.html

I recommend that you stop carrying these diapers. They are misleading people with all their environmental talk. Nowhere on the packaging does it say that they contain the gel that has been concerning parents for some time. I feel duped. I intend to send all my unused diapers back to the manufacturer and demand my money back.

Tushies are currently the only gel-free, truly safe disposable on the market. Please carry these. Thank you for looking into this serious matter.
— Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.
Professor of Environmental Studies
North Seattle Community College
Columnist, Environment New Service

Stephanie Steiner,
PCC Grocery Merchandiser replies:
Upon receipt of your letter, PCC was able to determine that SAP’s are indeed used in the Nature Boy and Girl diapers. Although the company uses ‘considerably less’ of it than the market leading diapers, we feel that the risks associated with this ingredient justify discontinuing the brand from our product mix, at least for now. We’ll continue to research SAP’s and review our choices.

Editor’s note:
The issues are not always clear cut. A spokesman for the Nature Boy and Girl company says their diapers contain about half the amount of SAP’s as other disposable brands and that it’s trying to replace it with another super absorbent substance. It’s working on a substitute derived from fish (a protein, not a plastic) that is 100 percent compostable. The spokesman says the mission of Nature Boy and Girl is to reduce the overall impact of disposable diapers. Instead of using a plastic “backsheet” on the outside of the diapers, it uses a cornstarch-based “biofilm” that the company says is 100 percent GMO free. Nature Boy and Girl also says its design enables the use of fewer raw materials such as pulp, super-absorbant plastic, and “non-woven” material (the top layer that looks like woven mesh fabric but is made from plastic). The spokesman says Nature Boy and Girl isn’t gel free yet, but when it can be, it will be. If you have further questions, the spokesman, Scott Robertson, of Norsea Natural Products, welcomes your calls at 425-771-1339.

Tushies, meanwhile, advertises its diapers as gel-free, latex-free, perfume-free and dye-free and as using non-chlorine bleached woodpulp. PCC sells Tushies. Of course, when weighing environmental impact and safety, cotton cloth diapers remain another choice.

Also in this issue