Letters to the editor, May 2006

This article was originally published in May 2006

PCC customer service

I am writing to tell you that PCC has some of the best customer service in America. I have been a member since I moved to Seattle in 1994. Last December, my husband and I moved with our three children to Anchorage, Alaska. The adjustment has been enormous. It can be very difficult to get free-range and/or organic meat and poultry on a consistent basis.

The most obvious reasons for the inconsistency are the city’s geographic location, weather and lack of skilled labor. Desperate, I contacted, via email, the PCC office and asked if they could ship to me. They told me to call Mike Fox, the butcher at the Fremont store.

Mike and I have been working together. Shipping isn’t a viable option for me right now, but Mike has helped me nonetheless. We always have to travel through Seattle to get back to Alaska. Hence, on our layover we pick up a meat order from Mike. I order the meat in advance, and Mike freezes and packs it for our flight back. It is truly customer service at its best!

So, even though I live in Alaska now, I am still a dedicated and enthusiastic PCC supporter. Keep it up!
— Melissa Trainer


There’s big news regarding fluoride, following your March article, “Update on fluoridation.” The National Research Council (NRC) just released a report advising the EPA to lower its drinking water standard for fluoride because of strong evidence linking fluoride to bone fracture, joint pain and damage to teeth.

The NRC recommended further research, noting a growing body of science linking fluoride exposure to disruption of the nervous and endocrine systems, including the brain, thyroid and pineal gland. According to the report, the dosage associated with thyroid disturbances is exceeded by many Americans — particularly children — living in so-called “low-fluoride” (1ppm) areas.

Serious questions exist on whether there’s an adequate margin of safety at a 1ppm fluoride level, especially for infants, those with kidney or sensitivity issues, or individuals with higher water intake. The Precautionary Principle should be applied until these questions are answered!

A Wall Street Journal article addressed some implications of the NRC’s findings for communities that fluoridate their water, such as Seattle. It mentioned concerns about the impact of fluoride on children’s IQ, among other things. Although this NRC story was carried by major newspapers, Seattle’s two major papers didn’t mention it at all — interesting, since one recently published an extremely pro-fluoridation editorial.

In addition to the NRC findings, the Environmental Working Group’s recent analysis of government data found significant overexposure to fluoride among infants (http://ewg.org/issues/fluoride/20060322/index.php). In Seattle, almost 45 percent of infants fed with fluoridated formula are over the safe level for fluoride exposure!
— Linda Joy, Washington Action for Safe Water, Sammamish

Editor: A free forum on fluoridation issues, “Is it Time to Stop Fluoridating our Water?” is being held May 9 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Cedar Room of the Talaris Conference Center, 4000 N.E. 41st St., Seattle. Dr. Paul Connett, an international authority on fluoride toxicity, will address concerns about fluoridation of public water supplies.

The forum is sponsored by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology. For more information email: fluorideforum@comcast.net and visit www.fluorideaction.org/seattleforum.htm.

Bag of shame?

Is your organic food coming home in a bag made by one of the most destructive companies in America? If you chose paper at PCC, then that may be you. Weyerhaeuser is a U.S.-based logging giant who is notorious for unsustainably clearcutting and logging old-growth forests, destroying habitats of endangered species and converting native forests into stagnant, homogenized tree plantations. They actively cut down virgin forests (possibly old-growth) to make paper products such as toilet paper, newspaper and yes, paper grocery bags.

PCC currently stocks Weyerhaeuser grocery bags for our shopping convenience. I implore PCC to stop carrying Weyerhaeuser products until it complies with Rainforest Action Network’s pleas and adopts the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards of sustainable forestry. It is a glaring inconsistency in our holistic shopping experience that I find alarming. A co-op in Santa Monica, Calif. recently dropped Weyerhaeuser (see www.ran.org), and so can we. They now carry recycled, post-consumer bags by Duro.

If one must use paper or plastic, let us procure them from companies that embrace recycling and a sense of sustainability. Preferably, one would plan ahead and make the conscious choice of carrying home groceries in a backpack, grocery dolly, canvas bag, etc. Alternatively, PCC can implement a bag fee of 15 to 25 cents each to truly manifest sustainability. Ireland recently did this and now enjoys a 90 percent reduction in bag consumption. See www.reusablebags.com.

I think we have the trees’ vote — Do we have yours?
— Dan Lundquist

PCC’s director of merchandising, Paul Schmidt, replies: Thank you for your suggestion. We have looked into the Duro bag company and met with RAN. At that time, Duro could not verify where its paper was coming from, nor could it confirm the percentage of recycled material used.

We’re happy to say our current plastic shopping bags are recyclable and oxo-degradable, and we also offer three different reusable cloth bags for purchase. We’re concerned that charging for shopping bags, however, would offend transitional shoppers and put us at a competitive disadvantage.

Too much of the real thing

Odwalla has now been owned by Coca-Cola for five years, and most responsible grocers, markets and some schools have kicked their products out. It really pains me to see PCC giving Coca-Cola space on its shelves when there are juices produced by responsible companies who care about their customers that easily could be filling that space. (See www.killercoke.org/news2005.htm.)

PCC also carries Boca Burger, owned by Kraft, and Morningstar Farms and Kashi, which are owned by Kellogg’s. While these products may be healthy, they’re owned and distributed by mega-corporations who don’t care about our health, the environment or basic business ethics and are only in the “natural foods” markets to rake in money.

It’s hard to form a judgment on a company who peddles overly sugary cereal to our increasingly obese children but also carries a line of organic healthy cereal. You want to support their branching out into healthier foods, but also boycott their contribution to the junk foods our country is so addicted to.

Meanwhile, good independent and local companies have to struggle against their million dollar ad budgets, designer packaging and mega-distribution centers.

I urge you to reconsider which products you allow on your shelves and investigate where the foods are coming from. I think that your customers appreciate knowing you care enough to stop helping irresponsible conglomerates from taking over the market. We trust you to be the responsible community market that you claim to be. Please don’t betray that trust.
— Tabitha Holmquist and family

Who decides what PCC sells

In recent months, I’ve noted a decrease in bulk buying options — a disturbing trend toward less basic and more fancy, less bulk and more prepared and prepackaged foods. I believe that prepared foods, while time-efficient, only encourage us to take less care and attention to what we consume. Fewer bulk items means that we pay more in purchase cost and in packaging and lose some of the experience of being part of the process by which products come to our homes.

Smart shopping might better suggest we insist on more bulk items and lower prices so we don’t have to work so many hours in order to be able to afford to continue to shop at PCC and, therefore, have more time to prepare our more-nutritious foods from scratch. I shop mostly at Seward Park, which quit carrying bulk shampoos and lotions (though they are not food items) some months back. These were regular purchases in our family. In good health,
— Cecilia Erin Walsh

Director of Merchandising Paul Schmidt replies: Our customers’ buying habits determine what we sell, as long as the products meet our guidelines. The items that are purchased the most continue to be carried, while slow-movers are eliminated to make room for new items being introduced to the market. Bulk shampoos and lotions were discontinued for lack of sales, but we still sell bulk all-purpose cleaner, laundry and dish detergent at our West Seattle, Greenlake and Issaquah stores.

We conclude that as people’s lives become busier, they want more convenience and buy more packaged goods. Four of our seven stores have virtually the same number of bulk bins as they had in January 2003, while three stores have fewer.

Nutrition educators Goldie Caughlan and Rita Condon add: We always emphasize in our Walk, Talk and Taste tours (part of PCC Cooks) that bulk foods cost much less when cooked from scratch than canned or boxed options. If shoppers ate more from bulk, they’d get a huge variety of grains, beans and nuts in their diets. There also are grocery items throughout the stores that are not fancy and don’t cost an arm and a leg: noodles, tomato products, alternative flours, dairy products and excellent produce.

Where’s my Sound Consumer?

My husband George has been a member of PCC since approximately 1981. We have enjoyed watching you grow and become the source of such good, common-sense food and health information, not to mention the best arena for healthy shopping in Washington state. We currently live in Honokaa, Hawaii, and manage to get back to Seattle at least once or twice a year.

Now we notice that we’re no longer receiving the Sound Consumer. As consumers of healthy organic food for years, we miss keeping up with your articles and being in the loop regarding organic, non-GMO issues. I even filled out a card this last summer while in your Fremont store to get us back on your mailing list. My question is — what happened? Please do not think that even though we’re not in your local market that we don’t count — we do! Please make sure we’re on the mailing list soon as we have missed many issues and they’re important to us.
— Brenda Johnson and George Zweibel

Editor replies: You’re back on the mailing list! Be aware that members need to shop and have their card scanned at least once a year to remain active and to continue receiving Sound Consumer. We also mail the paper to former shoppers all over the country, upon request.

Also in this issue

News bites, May 2006

Skagit farmland preservation, Teens shopping ethically, Washington Farm Bureau vs. orca whales, and more