Letters to the editor, March 2003

This article was originally published in March 2003

Fair Trade chocolate

Great article. (Sound Consumer, February 2003) Alicia Lindquist Guy is a great writer. Enjoyed it.
— Janna Wachter

Pesticides in produce

Hello, I’m a PCC member. Last summer you published an article on which fruits and vegetables were most important to buy organic. I thought I saved a copy but can’t seem to find it. Is there anyway I could get a copy of that article mailed or emailed to me? It was very helpful.
— Judy Wells, Seattle

Editor: Judy, we’ve run several stories over the years, most recently in January 2003, on which fruits and vegetables have the lowest and highest levels of pesticide residues. The heaviest load of pesticides in non-organic foods may be found in bell peppers, celery, spinach, potatoes, strawberries, apples, cherries, red raspberries and imported grapes, among others. Non-organic foods that tend to be low in pesticides include pineapples, bananas, blueberries, grapefruit, asparagus, avocado, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, onions and eggplant. The best way to get the most current information is from the Environmental Working Group’s Web site, www.ewg.org/foodnews, where you can reference a list and detailed information.

Re: Fiber from Goldie’s column

Thanks for your informative article on fiber in the current issue of Sound Consumer. It reminded me also of an article reviewing the effects of vitamins on prevention of chronic disease in adults that I ran across in the Journal of the AMA this past summer. The article is a comprehensive overview of several vitamins; I was especially interested that it points out the value of taking vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid to convert the amino acid, homocysteine, back to its precursor methionine, thus reducing the toxic effects of the former on the lining of the blood vessels, etc.

Homcysteine has been implicated in cardiovascular disease, in that it contributes to vascular plaque formation, as I recall. I just noticed at the following UW Health Sciences Web site, http://healthlinks.washington.edu/, that it has listed a British article that found high levels of homocysteine in people with cardiovascular disease. Gosh, it’s SO EASY to take the B vitamins! But I think that people probably need to take higher doses than they get in something like the Centrum brand, which is promoted in pharmacies, etc.

I probably should mention that I am a former physical therapy faculty member at the UW, so I am not an expert on this topic. It’s just something that I follow in the literature. Thanks.
— Jo McMillan

Consumer tip for supplements

When PCC advertised spirulina tabs “for people who can’t swallow big pills,” it brought this to mind:

Here’s a pointer for when you need to swallow a big chunky pill: Tip your chin down toward your chest with the pill on top of your tongue and then swallow it. It goes down much more easily and leaves your throat open instead of tipping your head way back the way birds do when they want to breathe or people when they want to gasp. Helpful hint. Try it yourself. It works.
— (name withheld on request)

White food vs. whole grain

I’ve shopped at PCC for many years —since the early days of the Ravenna store. These days I shop at PCC Greenlake. The employees there are helpful and friendly, and they have always stocked nearly all of the foods we eat. We are an ovo-lacto vegetarian family of five that eats primarily organic and uses a lot of bulk whole grains. We buy almost all our food at PCC and have been very happy with it until recently.

I have noticed a shift in the products sold at PCC. There are more frozen and highly packaged “fast” food items and more of what I think of as the standard American diet, i.e., more white foods and more non-organic items. I use some of these products myself (Annie’s mac & cheese and ramen), but I notice the standard American stuff is crowding out the organic whole grain foods I come to PCC to buy. A good example of this is the choice of noodles in the bulk food section. We have always bought organic whole-wheat lasagna, spaghetti and macaroni noodles in bulk. Now there are no bulk organic whole-wheat noodles.

I read last month’s “Ask Goldie” about “Stretching the organic food dollar” and buying organic staples such as pasta in bulk. I completely agree with this idea. Buying in bulk can make a huge difference in price. PCC has always been the place to buy hard-to-find allergy and whole grain products. White non-organic noodles are available at any grocery store — and for less money. Why is PCC using valuable bulk space for this stuff?
— Kevin Milam

Stephanie Steiner, Grocery Buyer/Merchandiser replies:
Several months ago Westbrae discontinued production of whole grain pastas. At the time, it was the only whole-wheat pasta producer and this left us with a void and no ability to fill it. Since then, we have worked very hard to encourage the production of whole-wheat pasta. It took a while, but the Gardentime pasta company is now producing a few bulk whole-wheat varieties. These items should be arriving at our stores in the next few weeks. We’ve already got orders placed through the distributor and as soon as the product arrives at their facility, they’ll automatically ship it to each of our stores.

As for the changing direction and larger presence of “convenience items,” it’s very much a result of the entire natural foods market change —more customers entering this area of grocery shopping have created a whole new set of demands for manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

Kevin’s follow-up:

I’m happy to hear whole grain organic pasta in bulk will come back to PCC. I have seen it at (other) markets, which is why I was surprised PCC didn’t have it any more. Here’s the thumbnail view of my opinion on the market change: I understand that market determines a lot of buying changes. I am happy to see healthy foods available at other “standard” grocery stores. What seems to me odd about some of the product choices at PCC is that the (stores) I shop (Greenlake and occasionally Fremont) aren’t really big enough to carry both types of products (standard grocery store and “co-op”). So it seems to me that PCC is losing the things that “made” it PCC, i.e., the alternative foods that weren’t available at other stores.

Because the shift in demand is large enough to create massive changes in manufacturing, we have no choice but to react because our customer base already has reacted. Being well on our way to almost doubling the square footage of the Fremont site is one way we can react to the demands of customers: by offering more choices and more information to help consumers make purchasing decisions best for them and their families.

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