Letters to the editor, December 2006

This article was originally published in December 2006

Dinner plate math

You must have been dozing over dessert when reading Samia McCully’s fine piece, Mindful Eating, in the November Sound Consumer.

The author wrote, “I was shocked … when I sat down to a turkey dinner on my grandmother’s china. The plates were 9 inches in diameter. Most dinner plates today are 12 inches in diameter. That is 33 percent more food to fill your plate.” Actually a 12-inch plate has much more than a third again the surface area of a 9-inch plate — it can hold nearly 80 percent more food. Did too much pie let “pi” slide by?
­— Scott Freutel, Seattle

Editor’s note: You’re right. The area of a circle (or plate) is the mathematical constant pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, approximately 3.14159) multiplied by the square of the radius. The area of a 9-inch plate is 63.705 square inches. The area of a 12-inch plate is 113.25 inches — 78 percent more.

Correction on population

Hey! It’s been many millennia since the world’s population of Homo sapiens was 300 million (Unsustainable population, Newsbites, November 2006 Sound Consumer) What happened to proofreading? Geeeez!
— Stephen Bray, Tukwila

Editor: Oops again! My fault; I write Newsbites. Population just exceeded 300 billion.

Quality standards and Horizon

Your decision on withdrawing Horizon from your shelves has had a greater positive impact than you can imagine. I have talked to many stores, including QFC, Safeway, Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Vons when out of state.

While talking to QFC, they indicated they understood PCC has withdrawn Horizon. I told them that’s because PCC has higher standards and cares about its customers. I told that to other stores also because I am sick and tired of the lies that exist in the food industry just for the love of money and to heck with the truth or health.

I also have asked them how can I trust any of what they say about their other organic products if they sell Horizon? I have stopped shopping for food at Safeway and QFC and am very cautious on what I purchase at Whole Foods. I visited both Whole Foods and PCC today. I bought $0 at Whole foods and $76.10 at PCC.

I keep thinking about the action of PCC in regards to Horizon. Believe me, I’m an outspoken person and tell many people about this story, even when I am at Whole Foods or other stores locally as a last resort.
— Mirto Capeder, Carnation


I recently had occasion to return an empty container of Horizon half-and-half to Whole Foods. The staffer looked at me blankly when I held up the container and pointed out its plastic screw-top spout. “How am I supposed to recycle this container?” I asked.

“Uh, tear the spout off?”

“Okay, then what do I do with the spout?”

You get the idea. I didn’t buy the Horizon product. There won’t be any more of that around here. In fact, there won’t be any Horizon product at all and I commend you for taking a stand against their lax production standards. I doubt Whole Foods would do the same.

On the other hand, I find the fact you even carried Breyer’s ice cream to begin with a tad hypocritical. Breyer’s is owned by Nestle, a quintessential monolith of multi-national, anti-consumerism. Yet, several years ago I found Nestle-owned Carnation milk products on PCC shelves. Constant vigilance— sometimes it takes work.
— Jef Jaisun, Ravenna

Editor: You’re right. Constant housekeeping is needed to keep anything in order. I’m glad to say Carnation/Nestle products were dropped at least three years ago.

Underreported mad cow and Alzheimers

I’d like to add a comment (to the October Newsbite, Mad cow testing cut back and a subsequent letter) about the number of cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) that have been reported in the United States. One reason this is not being reported accurately is that doctors are reluctant to autopsy when they know the patient died of CJD.

It could be contagious when encountering the blood of the deceased and the prions that cause this disease are almost impossible to kill. The usual methods of sterilizing surgical instruments simply don’t work with this disease, and autoclaving with extremely high temperatures doesn’t work either. The metal in the instruments would melt before the prions would be dead. My ex-husband died of CJD here in Seattle several years ago and the doctors refused to autopsy him. I think there are a lot more cases than we’re being told about.

One must note, however, that there are several varieties of CJD — one of which is a spontaneous affliction that does not stem from eating beef. In fact, there are three categories of CJD: sporadic CJD, hereditary CJD and acquired CJD.

When someone comes down with it, it’s often difficult to ascertain where it came from. We tend to blame eating beef, but it could just as likely come from another source. It’s thought that up to 85 percent of the cases are spontaneous (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation). Of course, the spontaneous aspect of this disease might very well come from eating beef (or other meat that has “mad cow” disease).
— name withheld on request

Editor: At least two studies have found that a significant portion of cases attributed to Alzheimers actually were CJD.

Chinese organic

I recently purchased a bag of frozen edamame from the Fremont store and noticed the bag says the soybeans were grown in China. It also says that the produce was certified organic.

I called the 1-800 number listed and learned the beans were grown on land owned by Cascadian Farm. They insisted that all organic standards as specified in Washington state were followed in the growing of this product. I wondered if they had tested the soil for heavy metals or other contaminants but they could not tell me this.

I wondered further why the beans could not be grown in this country and whether this might have something to do with paying lower wages to Chinese workers. They could not answer this question to my satisfaction. Could you?
— Valerie Simmons, Seattle

Editor replies: A spokesperson at Cascadian Farms says they’re unable to find domestically grown edamame comparable to what they get from China, but are investing in research to develop a domestic crop. But I know that at least two other companies in Minnesota are successfully growing organic and non-GMO edamame (PCC merchandisers are looking into these) and that farmers will grow whatever there’s a market for!

Foreign-grown products must comply with U.S. organic standards to be labeled organic here, but the U.S. organic standards do not require that soil is tested for contaminants — neither on domestic nor overseas farms. Certifiers may order testing if they believe there’s a problem. Contaminated land cannot be certified organic.

A new ingredient on meat

One major issue that has been vastly under-publicized is the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent approval for spraying a mixture of viruses as a food additive on ready-to-eat meats to kill the bacterium causing listeria. However, there appears to have been no testing done on the long-term effects of humans ingesting these viruses.

This move by the FDA happened in August, yet none of the PCC employees that I have asked about this issue knew anything about it. In the interest of raising public and employee awareness of this issue, please consider publishing an article about it. Personally, I’m uncomfortable buying any meat or poultry — even organic — if the employees can’t tell me with confidence whether it has been treated with these additives.
— Erin Honeycutt

Editor: We ran an article on this very topic, What’s not on your food label? in the October Sound Consumer. You can find it in our archives online at pccnaturalmarkets.com.

Onions in the deli

I’d like to inspire the appropriate people in management concerning the ingredients of deli items at Issaquah — in particular ONIONS! For some reason it seems that onions are a primary ingredient of most prepared deli items.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe they have their place as a condiment, but one of choice, especially when they’re as strong as those used in your deli. They’re usually so strong they permeate the entire sandwich, burger, salad, etc. and render the other ingredients tasteless, even if you remove them.

Yesterday, I was shopping and needed lunch to go and felt sure I would find something without onions and selected a BLT sandwich. NO SUCH LUCK! Number three ingredient: ONIONS! BLT with onions? Who ever heard of such a thing?

I started laughing aloud and the lady next to me asked what was so funny and I explained my predicament. Surprisingly, she echoed back the same feelings about the onions. I think that if you polled the shoppers at PCC on this and other ingredients they would likely elect to add items to their own taste. I do not understand why they cannot be on a condiment bar for those that want them, especially with the sandwiches and burgers.
— Kip Miller

Deli merchandiser Jan Thompson replies: Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We removed the onions from the BLT. We’re reviewing our other recipes, too, for any unnecessary onions.

Microwaves and infrared ovens

Our family so enjoys and learns from the articles and news tidbits in the Sound Consumer. Keep up the good work. We gave up using our microwave-oven. We had pre-existing misgivings about the safety of microwave cooking, which were re-enforced by your excellent article (Microwaved food: is it healthy? January 2006 Sound Consumer).

We do miss the convenience but are adapting. We wonder if you have any information about the safety of the high-speed infrared ovens?
— Catherine Jarosz

Editor: I know nothing about high-speed infrared ovens. Anyone?

Also in this issue

News bites, December 2006

Pasture for organic cows, Hershey acquires organic chocolate company, Cocoa farmers strike, and more