Letters to the editor, September 2007

This article was originally published in September 2007

Food safety issues

I was very happy to see your front page article in the July Sound Consumer, Food Safety. I was glad to be alerted to the various food safety issues, including the nutty ruling on raw almonds. Since our restaurant is involved with food, we’re really concerned with keeping food as food and not just as a way for someone to make money.

At a time when so many things are being pulled toward profit rather than well-being, someone has to keep watch, warn and blow the whistle. You are doing that. The article had a nice tone of positive alertness without falling into the “everything is bad” journalism that has taken over so many alternative publications. Please keep up the good work.

By the way, we’re so happy to be close to a PCC market since we moved to the Fremont neighborhood. We believe in the PCC mission. We know that when we buy there (which is often), we’re supporting principles as well as getting good food.

I’m sad when people jilt PCC for other “natural” markets and forget that PCC is their real friend. I do believe that PCC is an excellent market both in the principles and in the food itself. The staff is terrific, too, and I was happy to see a very busy market when I was in the Fremont store today. Best wishes for a golden future,
— Nayak Polissar, co-owner, Silence-Heart-Nest Restaurant


With regard to the article “Food Safety,” if you’d like to join a campaign to oppose the USDA’s insalubrious (unhealthy) ruling, which will make selling raw almonds illegal by March 2008, please write a letter.

If you prefer raw almonds, the USDA/FDA ruling will prevent you from obtaining them. It also poses an immediate threat to farmers who grow almonds organically. This ruling was not made for their benefit. The extra financial burden of having either to acquire equipment to sterilize their own healthy crops, or to pay others to do so, may be ruinous. In addition, many buyers of organic almonds want them raw and will not purchase steamed organic almonds, myself included.
— Irene Holroyd, Seattle

Editor: Visit www.cornucopia.org and see “The Authentic Almond Project” for more information on the almond ruling and for help in drafting and sending letters to the USDA and key officials.

News bites

I love (and depend on) your “News bites” column. I always find wonderful bits of information that I can share in my classes. It is easy to find the source article or research. This has been so helpful to my work. Thank you.
— Cynthia Lair, nutrition educator and author

Editor: Choosing and writing News bites is one of my favorite tasks for this paper. It’s great to report stories the mainstream media typically ignores, yet there are many more good stories than we have room for.

Old-fashioned for health

I was inspired to write kudos to PCC for offering meat and cheese products that are grass-fed and unpasteurized. (However, I still resent having to go to Whole Foods to buy raw milk!) Raising public awareness is a years-long process with many consumers just starting to focus on issues such as pesticide use, animal welfare, etc.

Slowly the general public is starting to understand that how we feed livestock impacts human health as well. Only grass-fed cows (not grain-fed) produce high omega-3 meat and milk. Unpasteurized milk products preserve the healthy bacteria that people have lived with for millennia. Touting eggs as “vegetarian” doesn’t address chickens’ and ducks’ preferred omnivorous diet, which includes insects and grubs.

We need clear labeling on all animal-derived products to state what’s produced in the most “old fashioned” way possible: grass-fed; unpasteurized “raw;” no pesticides, antibiotics, hormones; not genetically modified; and, ideally, local.

The French, for example, view cheese as a living thing, while Americans have been taught to fear “germs” and prefer their dairy products to be sterile. Germ phobia began in the early 20th century and led to pasteurization and, more recently, antibiotic soaps, which breed super-bugs.

The quality of foods developed over the last century is not what we were meant to ingest. Perhaps by grasping the basic principle of “old fashioned,” we may return to a diet that’s in harmony with our biology.
— Alison Butler, LMP

Organic pork

The quality of the PCC Sound Consumer and the ideals it upholds are excellent. Unfortunately, company decisions don’t (always) seem to meet these standards.

I’ve been a member of PCC for about 15 years and am very loyal to the co-op. However,there are times when my wife and I need to shop at another market, such as Whole Foods and local farmers markets, to get quality organic products that PCC will not offer.

One example is organic pork products. PCC used to carry Organic Prairie bacon in the freezer section but stopped offering that more than a year ago. In response to a letter in the latest newsletter, Roger Wood said PCC shoppers are not willing to pay for the increased price for organic pork. In fact, your members will pay more for the organic pork, but we can’t do so at PCC so we are forced to spend our money elsewhere. I’m saddened that PCC is losing its leadership role.
— Joe Olson, Seattle

Editor: Organic Prairie bacon is sold at five of our eight stores, all but Greenlake, View Ridge and Seward Park. At $5.99 for six strips, sales are slow, averaging one or two packages per week per store. We’d like more people to choose organic and hope they’ll seek it out in the frozen case, where we also offer organic pork sausage. We just don’t sell enough to offer it unfrozen.

Chilean grapes

I’ve been a member of PCC for more than 25 years. The solid information in the Sound Consumer every month is very helpful in making my health and food decisions. I’m thankful to have this resource, which has influenced my overall choice for organic foods — a choice I’m more and more happy with, in light of the various food scandals that make news.

Recently, in the “Newsbites” section, again as in past years, there’s a note indicating non-organic imported grapes are among the top 12 produce items most contaminated with pesticide residues. Yet every winter, PCC not only carries non-organic Chilean grapes, but prominently features them in displays at the front of the store.

For the sake of the children of PCC shoppers, if you can’t stop selling these poisoned grapes, will you please, please clearly label them as highly contaminated? I believe that your customers and my fellow members, who shop PCC for healthy natural food, would be willing to forego grapes for a few months per year if they realized the impact it can have on their health.

This is my third letter in two years on this topic. And the grapes keep coming back year after year. I’m losing my faith that, as a co-op,you listen to members.
— Barbara Reid, Seattle

Director of Merchandising, Paul Schmidt replies: I hear you and will bring this up for reevaluation with our management team. We publish the “dirty dozen” list in the interest of education and are drafting a new brochure on pesticides in food. But PCC always has offered non-organic produce for shoppers who want it when organic isn’t available in the off-season.

Shipping organic grapes by air from the southern hemisphere would be prohibitively pricey and if transported by boat they turn to mold, since organic standards prohibit mold inhibitors. Keep in mind that the dirty dozen this year also includes non-organic strawberries, peaches, nectarines, cherries, pears, apples, lettuce, peppers, celery, spinach and potatoes. Any decision could affect them all.

Charging for bags

Over a period of several months I’ve read in the Sound Consumer the demand that PCC start charging for bags and your comments on sourcing bags that recycle effectively. These are different issues.

Yes, find a better bag, please. But why drag your feet on charging for this better bag or even the current ones? I suggest 25 cents per bag and that these payments be dedicated to the Farmland Trust. (By the way, your cashiers often forget to do the bag refund when I bring my own bag.) Might I also suggest that your reusable bags be at the checkout so they cannot be overlooked?
— Jo Curran, Seward Park shopper

Editor: Our task force on bags is proposing a new bag program soon.


I haven’t yet voiced my opinion about this ongoing issue of plastic bags and whether to charge, but whatever PCC decides (hopefully to charge), please offer consumers the source of where to get reusable bags in the meantime (other than PCC-made ones).

Reusablebags.com is a wonderful resource; I use its bags and totes for produce, grains and bags for my entire purchase. Nothing beats it — organic, hemp, eco-friendly, durable, strong bags.

With all the other choices we make to eliminate or reduce chemicals in our food, body care, household cleaners and more, and to reduce waste and save our planets’ resources, choosing reusable hemp shopping bags is just another simple choice we can make when we say we care about the future of our planet. I’d rather pay a minimal fee now, if I forget my own tote, than pay later.
— Bethanne Wanamaker, Certified Nutrition Educator, Organic Healing


I’m happy to use my canvas PCC bag on each shopping trip and to reuse paper and plastic bags as well. Why not also have insulated bags for purchase to use for cold items?
— Sue Hill, Woodinville

Director of Merchandising, Paul Schmidt: We’ll look into this, but we might not want to sell them for two reasons: 1) typically they’re made from petroleum-based materials, including vinyl, and 2) based on previous experience, very few people buy them.

Editor: The production of vinyl creates a lot of toxins, creating hazards to human and environmental health. Some food bags made with vinyl also might warrant testing for toxic lead. See Safety alert: Lead in soft vinyl lunchboxes, Sound Consumer, September 2006.

Independent tests found many popular insulated vinyl lunchboxes/bags had high levels of lead — two to 25 times the legal limit for paint in children’s products. In most cases, the highest lead levels were in the lining where lead can contact food directly. Handling such vinyl before eating also could be an exposure risk. Non-toxic, insulated fabric lunch bags are available from Reusablebags.com, as above.

Also in this issue

News bites, September 2007

One co-op closes, another rebounds; Draper Valley Ranger chicken sold; Washington farmers markets; and more