Letters to the editor, January 2008

This article was originally published in January 2008

No more high fructose corn syrup

I want to congratulate PCC for taking a stand and removing all products with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from the store and hope that your decision will be taken up by other more traditional stores in the nation. I personally will be asking my local “traditional” grocery store to consider the possibility. Incremental change, one step at a time — it actually can work!

Your loyal fan and shopper,
— Patricia Simon


Thank you for eliminating HFCS! And for making a stand on so many other issues, such as not using plastic bags, no growth hormones in dairy products, and so many other things. Taking stands like this and advertising them is why I am a member and why my first choice is to buy from PCC if it is at all practical.
— Todd Wentworth


I want to thank you and the PCC personnel responsible for banning HFCS products from your stores shelves. Hallelujah! What a welcome gift this time of year.

Along with many other parents, I’ve been focusing on healthy school lunches for our San Juan Island kids the last few years. We’re just getting to where some real change might take effect and hearing of a large natural grocery chain taking a stand is very inspirational.

Dealing with school administration, farm bill policy, and the national school lunch program can be extremely daunting, but we won’t give up on our kids. The increase in childhood diabetes and obesity in this country is staggering and criminal, in my eyes — especially when schools are dealing sugar to our kids to make a profit!

Again, a heartfelt thank you from me and my family, who frequent your stores whenever we hit Seattle.
— Susan D. Williamson, Friday Harbor

Heirloom vs. Heritage turkeys

Having recently read Barbara Kingsolver’s new book “Animal, Vegetable. Miracle,” I was very excited to see in our PCC ad flyer that “Organic American Heirloom Turkeys” would be available for purchase. I was taken aback, however, when the packages clearly stated that these are “broad-breasted” birds.

Further research indicates these are not the Standard Bronze variety of turkeys that Slow Food and the Heritage Turkey Foundation by definition call “Heritage” turkeys. My mistake and disappointment for sure! I wonder how many others purchased these “Bronze” broad-breasted birds thinking they were getting the “real thing.”

I want to be clear that it’s more my disappointment about what I “thought” I was going to get — that I didn’t understand initially how similar-sounding terms don’t actually mean the same thing. I wrote in mostly to call attention to my error and to help educate others who might make a similar mistake.

I do applaud the PCC co-op for providing a much better option than a Butterball Turkey. I will continue to purchase and support all the “locally grown” produce and products.
— Kathy Passage, PCC member

Director of Merchandising Paul Schmidt replies: You’re right; the Heritage Turkey Foundation says the “heirloom” turkeys raised by the Diestel Turkey Ranch do not qualify as true “heritage” turkeys. It says Diestel’s heirloom turkeys are the Orlopp strain of Broad-Breasted Bronze turkey developed in the 1930s — a predecessor of the Broad-Breasted White, which accounts for 99 percent of the turkeys sold today.

The foundation points out, however, that even if the birds can’t mate naturally and don’t mature like heritage birds, they at least can walk and are not plagued with the health problems of their industrial cousins.

For its part, Diestel says its heirloom turkeys are raised outside in large, open grassy pens shaded by oak and pine trees. Their wings are not clipped and their toenails and beaks are not trimmed as is standard. Their feed mix is certified organic corn and soy — free of animal by-products, GMOs, antibiotics, growth enhancers and hormones.

Avoiding GM sugar

In the November Sound Consumer the statement was made: “Consumers who wish to avoid genetically modified (GM) sugar should look for the words ‘pure cane sugar’ on product labels.” Does that mean product with those words “pure cane sugar” does or does not contain GM sugar?
— Marsha Eaton, Normandy Park

Editor: Pure cane sugar should not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Sugar cane is under development for genetic modification, but GM sugar cane is not approved for sale. Products labeled as “granulated” sugar are likely to be from sugar beets, now approved for genetic modification and sale. Buying organic sugar is another way to avoid GM sugar.

Buyouts and consolidation

I’m writing about my concern regarding two lines of products at PCC: Tom’s of Maine (a division of Colgate-Palmolive) and Burt’s Bees (just bought by the Clorox Corporation). It would have been nice if these companies had stayed small and independent, but we all sell out at one time or another. I know these lines don’t violate any of the “Mission and Values” of the co-op (except perhaps the spirit of community trust) but the responsibility of the co-op to its members goes deeper.

Colgate has $12.2 billion in revenues and its soaps and detergent cleaners are not environmentally friendly in any way. Clorox has revenues of $4.6 billion and 7,600 employees and is a huge manufacturer of plastic bags. These are not the types of companies the co-op should be providing profits for. In the true spirit of the cooperative, we should be supporting small, independent and environmentally trustworthy companies, not these.

— Robert Siceloff

Editor: You’re right that we want to support and do seek out small, independent and environmentally trustworthy companies rather than the Colgates and Cloroxes of the world. The trouble is that buyouts and mergers have become so commonplace that fewer companies remain independent. You may be shocked to see how widespread this trend is. Google “Phil Howard Organic Industry Structure” to see a chart illustrating the status quo.

Big box organic?

I’m a loyal PCC customer and wish I could shop at PCC for all my groceries. I recently moved, however, to a rural area of California where organic options are both limited and more expensive than I am accustomed.

I’m wondering if proprietary store brand organics sold by stores, such as Safeway/Von’s and Trader Joe’s, truly meet the organic standards? I’ve had friends tell me that the standards have been lowered so much that these products truly may not be what I’m expecting.

If I knew with certainty that these products were substandard, I’d go ahead and pay more, as often as I can, for non-store brand organic groceries. But if they are truly organic, there would be times when I would purchase these products, especially if the item is unavailable in an organic “version” in stores within two hours of my home.

As a side note, PCC is the one thing about Seattle that I miss the most. I visit and stock up as often as I’m able!
— Holly G. Beck, CPA, CMA, Yosemite, CA

Editor replies: This is a great question for people who want to shop with integrity. The answer comes down to knowing the source of the food, which is not revealed by most private labels. Private labels usually don’t say who produced the product and may not divulge details that could dissuade you.

For instance, the organic milk that’s been sold under private labels of Safeway, Costco, Target and Wal-Mart reportedly has largely or exclusively come from Aurora Dairy, which the USDA found had willfully violated 14 provisions of the national organic standards from 2003 through 2006. The USDA says Aurora illegally confined cattle to feedlots, deprived them of fresh air and healthy grazing conditions, and brought in non-organic cattle instead of milking cows that were managed organically for their entire lives. Private labels won’t reveal this.

I disagree, however, that the organic standards have been lowered. Misleading and deceptive reports about an amendment to the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) and about 38 minor ingredients (on the so-called National List) sometimes have created an impression that the standards have been compromised.

In fact, the amendment to OFPA restored the standards as developed over a decade by organic stakeholders; the National List now allows ONLY 38 minor ingredients as exceptions to the rules, whereas before June 2007 virtually any synthetic was allowed as a minor ingredient. The sites that perpetuate mistruths seem to benefit by positioning themselves as “The” protector of the organic consumer and thereby rake in donations.


I have used cloth bags for many years. When my original bags wore out (I bought them from a now-defunct catalog company) after more than 15 years of service, I made a pattern from the old bags and have made new ones out of tough 100 percent cotton canvas. These bags live in my car and come with me wherever I go.

Since I do not live in Seattle, I think that I’ve made a difference in the consciousness of employees in the other grocery stores where I shop (between visits to PCC!) simply by asking that they bag my groceries in my own bags.

I’d be more than happy to share my bag pattern with anyone who sews. If the editor would forward any emails to me, I would appreciate it. Glad this topic is hot! Wish it were so in other stores.
— Judy Hurcomb, Granger


You drive me crazy! Do you think we’re ninnies who can’t figure out better ways to transport our groceries? You haven’t arrived at the real problem: why do people want a plastic bag collection?

I use mine to get rid of kitchen garbage and sanitary waste. What would I use without plastic bags? My building manager puts up signs: “Securely wrap all waste in plastic bags and dispose in trash chute.”

How else can I get rid of squishy yucky stuff? I have no land, no compost piles. My four-story building is serviced by garbage trucks that come weekly and collect the tightly-wrapped plastic bags. I personally hate the landfill solution but don’t remember what we did before 1977. Wrap everything in newspapers secured by twine? Any suggestions? Cheers,
— Adele Peterson, Seattle

Editor replies: Sanitary waste doesn’t need any bag really, but to accommodate your building chute, it might go in paper bags. Yucky stuff can go in BioBags, available at PCC. They’re made from non-GMO cornstarch and even if they wind up in the landfill, they’re 100 percent degradable.

The best solution, however, is to get your building manager to provide a green bin for food waste composting by Cedar Grove. The small cost of providing a green bin might be offset by the reduced volume and cost for garbage pickup.

Also in this issue

Your co-op, January 2008

Board meeting report for November 27, 2007; Next board meeting; Talk to the board; and more