Letters to the editor, April 2007

This article was originally published in April 2007

Thank you from the farmers

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to produce merchandiser Joe Hardiman, the store produce managers and staff, and all the customers for supporting our farm and our fruit this past summer, fall and winter. Customer support for our cherries and apples was awesome!

With everyone’s help, we averted a potential disaster with our Bosc pear crop due to some circumstances that were out of our control. There seem to be a lot of those when you’re a farmer!

We initially had earmarked a third of our Bosc pears for long-term storage, so we could provide PCC with pears into March. However, those pears accidentally were put into short-term storage, so they had to be consumed by January.

Joe Hardiman was able to work with us to provide a special price for customers, and produce managers displayed the pears visibly so that they were bought, consumed and appreciated by customers rather than getting overripe and unusable.

It is through the continued support of places such as PCC that farmers like us, with small, sustainable family farms, are able to keep on farming. Without the farmer-retailer-consumer relationship, small family farms would be a thing of the past.

A big “thank you” again to Joe, the produce managers and staff, and all the customers who eat and enjoy our fruit!
— George and Apple Otte, River Valley Organics, Okanogon Valley

Bagging groceries

Regarding the letter in the March Sound Consumer from the gentleman who didn’t want his food tossed down the takeaway line: I can only wonder whether Mr. Sheets ever has seen food harvested from trees or crop rows. If our tomatoes and apples can survive what happens to them in the fields, surely they suffer nothing at the hands of PCC cashiers.

Since the customer service manager sent an email to all stores in response to Mr. Sheets’ suggestion, I’d like to request the cashiers be made equally aware of my message. In my regular visits to my neighborhood PCC in Seward Park and occasional visits to the Fremont store (for its longer hours and larger selection), I have been 100 percent impressed with the efficiency, friendliness and helpfulness of all the PCC cashiers who have served me. Keep up your good work!
— Wendy Call, Seattle

Charging for bags?

Come on, PCC! According to the New York Times, Ikea will charge 5 cents for their plastic bags starting March 15. Are you gonna let them be the first store in Seattle to do the right thing?
— Celia Bowker


I’m writing to back up what already has been suggested in the March Sound Consumer by 11-year old Natalie Kelley.

I would LOVE to see PCC charge for any paper or plastic bags. It seems there’s no reason why folks can’t bring their own bags each time. For PCC to take a stand on this is the LEAST we all can do for less waste, etc. I think it’d be a wonderful statement for PCC about your commitment to so many of your core values. The Daily Grist talks about the retailer Ikea doing just this.

Many thanks for all your hard work.
— Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, community member, SCRIP participant

PCC Merchandising Director Paul Schmidt replies: The Swedish-owned Ikea company is indeed the first major retailer in the United States to charge for plastic bags. PCC has talked about charging for bags, but we haven’t made that decision yet. We continue to offer an assortment of reusable bag options in every store.

Soy foods and thyroiditis?

Our family really appreciates the Sound Consumer. We have stacks of clippings from past issues because they have been so interesting, helpful or motivational.

One article that we read about with interest was in “Letters to the Editor” of the April 2006 issue. It was called To fu or not to fu: Quality and quantity of soy matters. Apparently, we missed that article. Is there a way to access articles from past issues on the PCC Web site?

We are vegetarians who always have included soy foods in our diet. Recently, I was diagnosed with autoimmune thyroiditis and my doctor told me to avoid soy foods. I’m seeking out all the information that I can find to see if I need to take that drastic step. I will be happy to hear back.
— Marie Pavish

Editor replies: The “To fu or not to fu” article, as well as all other feature articles for the past six years can be found on PCC’s Web site. From our home page at pccnaturalmarkets.com, click on the purple “Resources” tab for the Sound Consumer, then use the “search” function or click on “List of archive articles” to find your title or topic. As for thyroiditis and avoiding soy, we suggest you ask your physician for more information and scour the Internet. We’d like to know what you find!

Ultrapastueurized milk

I choose to buy ultrapasteurized milk for a reason. A bacteria known as MAP is known to cause Johne’s Disease in livestock. It can infect all livestock — cows, goats, sheep — without visible symptoms until the disease is very advanced. There’s increasing evidence that bovine MAP can cause Crohn’s Disease in genetically vulnerable individuals who consume infected dairy or beef. MAP has been cultured from biopsy specimens, blood and breast milk from people with Crohn’s Disease.

The USDA doesn’t require testing for MAP, even though about 20 percent of U.S. dairy herds test positive for Johne’s Disease. Animals that show signs or test positive for Johne’s legally can be slaughtered for human food. MAP is resistant to heat and isn’t killed by routine pasteurization. Some scientists believe ultra-high temperature (UHT) pasteurizing (labeled “ultra-pasteurized”) may kill these bacteria and recommend UHT milk to avoid MAP exposure. Some dairies voluntarily test for Johne’s Disease.

I have Crohn’s Disease and fortunately I’ve gone into remission on antibiotics designed to kill MAP. I also avoid rare meat, raw and regular pasteurized milk. I’ll purchase UHT milk unless and until milk from a dairy that tests all dairy cattle as Johne’s Free is available at PCC.
— Judith Eve Lipton, M.D.

Editor: Johnes is reported to be a somewhat regional issue, more prevalent in the East and Midwest and less of a problem here in the Northwest. Several of PCC’s milk providers have tested for Johne’s and some keep “closed herds,” which means newborn calves are raised to maturity within a herd to maintain or grow its size and no outside cows are brought in. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says keeping a closed herd is an effective precaution against Johne’s.

Organic Valley says it strongly encourages its dairy farmers to test, and most have. Organic Valley also has resources in place, including a staff veterinarian, to support testing.

Faith Dairy, the local provider for our milk in glass jugs (including the Norman Brook brand), says it tested its cows years ago, but doesn’t test every year because theirs is a closed herd.

Smith Brothers does not own or raise the cows producing the milk that carries its brand. It buys milk to package from a marketing and processing cooperative and says not all the herds there are closed. Testing for Johne’s is not required, but the supplier says it supports and encourages members to develop Johne’s management programs.

In goat milk, neither Meyenberg nor Grace Harbor Farms do any testing for Johne’s. Meyenberg’s herd is not a closed herd. Grace Harbor says the majority of its goats was born on the farm and from now on will be a closed herd.

Supplements not worth it?

I was wondering what PCC’s take is on the article, “Supplement use doesn’t help and may harm,” from the Seattle Times, February 28 — or more specifically the study referred to in the article. (Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA] warned that consumers should be cautious about taking high doses of supplemental beta carotene and vitamins A and E). Do you have any plans to address this study in the newsletter? I’d love to see it!

First of all, I’m not an expert in the field in any way. I have an idea in my head that “vitamins are good for me,” but maybe that’s from a lifetime of exposure to industry propaganda. I read the JAMA abstract, but not the full article. I also read a brief rebuttal of it, which didn’t have any clear and definite counterpoints. I think it’s probably wise to wait for a response from the scientific/medical community. Hopefully some unbiased parties can straighten this out.

This brings up an interesting question. I generally trust PCC to hold the interests of its customers and members above those of its suppliers and the industry. But, is there anything in the bylaws that ensures that will happen? If this report was true and there were similar reports published to back it up, would PCC publish that information, even if it resulted in a huge loss in sales of supplements? I’m not questioning your personal integrity here, I’m just wondering what the bylaws say about this (Maybe I should read them!). Thanks,
— Jason Foster

Supplement and Body Care Merchandiser Wendy McLain replies: We agree that it’s wise to let the scientific/medical community thrash this out. Critics say the JAMA study was flawed since it included people who already were sick. The Wall Street Journal says recent research shows antioxidants may have different effects on healthy and unhealthy people, and that two large vitamin studies showed antioxidant supplements lowered mortality risk. Everyone agrees the best way to get your nutrients is through a varied diet.

To answer the second part of your letter, PCC will not shy from publishing controversial information; the bylaws say PCC is organized to educate members and the public in the wise and efficient production, purchase and use of consumer goods and services,” and “to provide goods and services for the primary and mutual benefit of our members and patrons …”

Emerald City salad recipe

Thank you very much for publishing the recipe for the Emerald City Salad in the March Sound Consumer. This salad is one of my favorite items that PCC frequently carries in its delis. PCC’s Asian Cappellini Salad is another one of my favorites. Would you be willing to share this recipe as well? If you choose not to publish the recipe for Asian Cappellini Salad, would you be willing to send me the recipe individually? Thank you,
— Julianne Lamsek

Editor: I’ve just learned that our delis are glad to share their recipes. We are glad to send it to you.

Also in this issue

Your co-op, April 2007

Talk to the Board, 2007 Election begins this month, Election volunteers needed, and more