Letters to the editor, October 2003

This article was originally published in October 2003

Taking positions on food issues

Thank you for your excellent letter to APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture), reported in the June Sound Consumer.

For concerned readers tracking this agency’s proposed rules (already proven inadequate) for biotech companies, your letter adds informed strength and articulate support to our objections re: all processes and experimental practices that contaminate the food supply.

In agreement with you, with the NFP (National Food Processors Association) and the GMA (Grocery Manufacturers of America) and the UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists),
— Betty Hughes

Editor: The letter referred to involved a proposed rule to require a distance of only one mile between corn grown for food and corn that’s genetically engineered to contain pharmaceutical drugs. PCC’s letter opposed this rule as inadequate, in agreement with the views of the NFP, the GMA, and the UCA.

Union staff and the elections

One of the things I find refreshing as a member of the co-op is that our organization values democracy.

I appreciate, for example, the information that I have received on the various candidates for the PCC board of directors and that we have a petition mechanism for candidates to run who are not put forward by the nominating committee.

To further improve our system, I would like to see during elections information as to whom the unionized PCC employees recommend for the board of directors (along with rationale). It would be great if the employees, through their union, would make such recommendations, and then have it reported in the co-op newsletter.

The rank-and-file employees spend by far the most time at the co-op, more than any customers. They have a much greater sense of PCC’s leadership needs than do I. As I’m checking out, I always enjoy talking with the grocery workers about what’s going on — especially during contract negotiations.

In fact, I would love to see a greater voice of the union employees in the newsletter on a regular basis, not just election time. Would you consider giving the union stewards a regular column?

I would find that to be extremely interesting, and I think many other co-op members would too.

Cheers & solidarity,
— Sarah Luthens

Plastic bags

I have been a PCC member for over a year now. We very much enjoy the organic produce, the overall product options and the great staff. I do notice, however, that I have been asked many times if I would prefer plastic bags. As an environmentally friendly establishment, this seems to go against PCC’s philosophy.

I try to avoid using plastic bags and always request paper if it is available. I thought you might be interested in the following article about reducing the number of plastic bags in Ireland. I wouldn’t mind seeing this done in the U.S. Please keep up the good work and consider reducing or eliminating the plastic bags. Thanks for listening! (see http://www.msnbc.com/news/946646.asp?0cv=CB20)
— Nancy Martinez, Radiation Oncology, Evergreen Health Care

Editor: The article referred to says stores in Ireland won’t offer any shopping bag unless the customer is willing to pay for one (about 17 U.S. cents). According to MSNBC, the Irish Dept. of the Environment says use of plastic bags has dropped by about 95 percent since the plastic bag tax was imposed in March 2002. The tax also has provided cash to fund recycling programs.In 15 months, the levy has raised $15.15 million that the Irish have plowed into recycling facilities around the country.

Plastic bags now comprise only 0.3 percent of Ireland’s litter compared to 5 percent before the levy. Germany and Canada also are asking shoppers to pay for shopping bags.

Some environmentalists, including a spokesman for Environmental Defense are skeptical that the Irish system can be imposed in the U.S.; supermarkets fear a charge for bags would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

PCC’s plastic bags, meanwhile, are 100 percent recyclable and each store provides a bin for them. They’re made of 30 percent post-consumer waste. Plastic also reportedly releases fewer waterborne wastes into the soil, fewer emissions into the atmosphere, and requires less space in landfills compared to paper. The choice between paper and plastic, however, remains up to you, the shopper.

Consumers’ choice

We support the concerns of V. Sammons who wrote about the many over-packaged items sold by PCC. It is unfortunate that PCC chooses to stock over-packaged merchandise such as individual plastic-wrapped cheese slices, cupcakes in oversized plastic containers, candles in plastic boxes, and greeting cards in plastic sleeves. Such over-packaging wastes non-renewable resources and contributes significantly to the cost of an item.

Two parties are responsible for the prevalence of over-packaging in PCC stores: PCC staff that order over-packaged products and PCC customers who buy them. Our question to PCC is, “Why?”

Our appeal to customers is to take a good look at packaging before you buy. If there’s an alternative to an over-packaged item, choose it. If there isn’t, consider doing without.
— Mary Waters and Susan Levine

Editor: When our buyers have a choice between comparable products in either over-packaged or less heavily-packaged products, they always choose the less heavily-packaged one, especially those with recyclable packaging. In many, many examples, our buyers have rejected products because they are over-packaged. In addition, they tell manufacturers of this preference in efforts to push this back to providers.

Water jugs

How safe/sturdy are the blue jugs/containers that are used to bring home water from the water purifying system at PCC? There have been occasions when I have had to recycle some jugs after a certain number of refills because they started leaking. I went to grab one out of my pantry the other day only to find it partially empty because it had sprung a leak. The evidence was a puddle underneath the jug. Should we use the bottles for only a certain amount of refills and then recycle them and buy new ones to prevent potential water contamination from the plastic components?
— Virginia Southas

Pat Fox, of Custom Pure:
About leaking bottles: First of all, the bottles are intended for “long-term” use and reuse. How long they last, however, can be a function of how well they have been treated. Being accidentally bumped into something that causes a bend in the plastic will cause a weak area in the plastic that may eventually develop into a leak.

The bottles are not designed to be leak-proof when stored on their sides. Many will have a drip if stored in this manner. The bottle should be stored with the caps on top.

Sometimes the valve on the two-gallon bottle may leak, simply because the nut holding the valve in place has gotten a little loose. We go to great lengths to make sure the valves are installed securely, but occasionally one will leak anyway. This can be fixed simply by reaching inside the bottle and holding the nut secure, while you rotate the valve one full turn. A faulty valve also can be replaced, allowing you to keep the original bottle.

Our bottles, when properly cared for, can last for many years. If there is a manufacturer’s defect, you can return the bottle to PCC for a refund and Custom Pure will give a full refund to PCC.

Our bottles are made of polycarbonate plastic, which is the highest-quality plastic to use for the purposes of storing water.

Unlike the more pliable polyethelene plastic bottles, the polycarbonate does not contribute a taste or odor to the water. As long as the bottle is not in contact with boiling water or is used to freeze water, it will not emit hormone-mimicking elements. When used as intended, the plastic is safe for storing water.

For people who insist on going entirely plastic free, they can special order one- and five-gallon glass bottles from Custom Pure, through PCC. However, be reminded that glass has its own limitations, such as shattering when mishandled. A cut from broken glass can produce serious injury.

It really comes down to a risk assessment. Personally for me, I feel safer with plastic bottles than glass. But we provide both options. And for people who are tiring of hauling their water, Custom Pure also provides water filters for home use.

I hope that addresses the issue. If you need more information, please call me again.
— Pat Fox, Custom Pure Water Company

Informed choices

I had to write you. Thank you so much for raising pure old-fashion pigs. I have migraine headaches (that) are brought on with MSG and other additives — food flavorings, nitrite, nitrates and all the others that are put in meats and foods of all kinds. My migraines are not just headaches. I have had a stroke, numbness to my face and my eyesight goes dim — it’s a trip, let me tell you. I have had these for more than 31 years now.

Medications also have forms of MSG, they just call it by a different name. After many years of medications, tests (and) doctors, I went on a study of myself and tested myself for over two to three years on all kinds of foods — grocery store foods and restaurant foods. Most foods are like poison to my system.

Thank you for raising good hogs so I can once again eat bacon, pork chops and ham. Hey — I purchased bacon for the first time in years knowing that I can eat it. I can hardly wait for the ham that I can eat. The price I can handle, thank you so much.

May God bless you and every farmer that helps raise good pigs — let each of them know once again I will be able to eat pork.
— Darlene Sprague

Editor: Thank you Darlene. PCC carries several “clean” pork brands, including Beeler’s, Applegate Farms, Wellshire Farms and Hempler’s.

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