Letters to the editor, March 2008

This article was originally published in March 2008

Fan letters

My wife and I are relatively new members of PCC and are delighted with the organic food, personal products offered, and the friendly and informed personnel, such as Carol in the meat department at West Seattle. Too, we look forward to your useful and informative Sound Consumer newspaper.

Two column writers whom we wish to applaud are Jeff Cox and Goldie Caughlan. Mr. Cox is knowledgeable, witty and iconoclastic, plus he has the unique ability to take our usual acceptance of things, examine them and offer an alternate but valid point of view. He encourages one to think about rote cultural values and the wines with which we toast them. Hurrah!

Another writer who bowls us over is Goldie Caughlan — what a gem. She presents consumer news in a clear and insightful manner. Her research (is that done nowadays?) devastatingly shakes the corporate brutes by their collective necks until their teeth rattle. The resulting fallout exposes the devious machinations of the corporate clones (clowns). Her astute observations turn out to be humorously ironic and at the same time chillingly scary. Thanks for being there.
— Charles and Roberta Angelo, Normandy Park


I am so blessed that you and PCC have been a healthy part of my life for so long. I became a member when it was just one little store with a free clothes box out front.
— Cathy Geier, Richland


This is just a note of thanks to PCC for opening a new store in Edmonds. I’ve been a PCC member since 1989 and since we moved to Shoreline, finding a good grocery store has been a challenge. I primarily shop at Central Market now and find their organics section passable. I welcome spending my food dollars at PCC Edmonds, a store that celebrates and promotes sustainable food! Thanks for thinking of us north-enders!
— Teresa Catford

Agriculture in a changing climate

Re: Washington agriculture in a changing climate (January 2008 Sound Consumer)

To understand the climate change facing Washington, people should review the historical climate data for our state. I have prepared a summary of the climate data available at: www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/RS_Washington_usa.htm
— Alan Cheetham

Organic bacon, organic salami

Last month I was in the meat department at my PCC and asked the butcher if any of the bacon was organic. I expected the same answer that I’ve received for the past few years — “No.” To my delight, he pointed to the “New Item” sign above the organic bacon and then directed my attention to the second “New Item” sign above the organic sliced salami!

My wife and I have been pestering our store to carry organic bacon for a long time so it’s nice to see that selection finally has joined the seven other non-organic bacon products. Organic salami is a special treat that we previously had only when visiting Canada.

Now that the organic products are in the store, it would be great if more explicit attention were drawn to them. Except for the word “organic,” their packaging is identical to that of the non-organic versions sitting alongside. Maybe the “New Item” sign could be changed to read “New ORGANIC Item.”

Nonetheless, this is a good improvement and I hope that the organic meat (and other organic product) choices continue to increase.
— Joe Olson

PCC shopper challenges GM sugar

I’m a devoted PCC customer and I just wanted to thank you for writing the brief article (News bites, November 2008 Sound Consumer) concerning the American Crystal Sugar Company that announced it’s excited to use GM sugar. I obtained the company’s phone number and spoke with the public relations man and told him about my opposition to genetically modified sugar and how the U.S. is going in the direction against GM foods and for organic foods.

So we had a conversation and it was very good. I think I did a very good job in trying to make him open his mind. I was hoping to make him change his mind and look at the future, about how it would cost less to change now rather than change back later on to regular sugar or organic.

I want to know if you could print the phone number so everyone else can call and contact this man because they said they are open to change. I could definitely hear that. He said he has had other people call. I can tell this company needs a lot of phone calls, a lot of opposition, because we’re dealing with their shareholders and their so-called research. I think it would be a wonderful thing to do. Thank you so much!
— Name withheld

Editor: The American Crystal Sugar Company headquarters is in Moorhead, Minn. The phone number is 218-236-4400.

Ecstatic carrot experience

I am both amazed and almost embarrassed to confess that this afternoon I had an altogether ecstatic carrot consumption experience. Being now in my seventh decade and having consumed a diversity of foods from around the world, I never expected to be transfixed by a mere carrot. However, to my great surprise, after eating a raw, medium-sized fresh carrot from the Redmond PCC, I was unable to refrain from gobbling several more. Each one was inestimably sweet, gloriously crunchy, and deeply satisfying. Thank you!
— David P. Barash, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Washington

Cal-Mag supplements

I notice that PCC is continuing to advertise and sell Cal-Mag formula: calcium with added magnesium for bone health. PCC consumers should be aware that magnesium added to calcium has no proven health benefits.

The following is from the Web site of Dr. Susan Ott, a leading Seattle endocrinologist who specializes in osteoporosis prevention:

“Except in severe cases of hypomagnesemia (such as seen with some medications or alcohol abuse), magnesium is not required for absorption of calcium. There’s a lot of advertising and very little real data about the effects of magnesium on the skeleton … A presentation at 2002 meetings from the Women’s Health Initiative showed that dietary magnesium intake did NOT prevent fractures. The women who consumed the most magnesium had the highest rate of wrist and lower arm fractures. Magnesium might compete with calcium. It alters the crystals within the bones but the effect of that is uncertain.”

It would seem from available information that women should not take any calcium with added magnesium and PCC should stop promoting and selling this product.
— Eileen Crawford, Seattle

Dr. Sheila Dunn-Merritt, naturopathic physician and author of “Osteoporosis: Treatment and Prevention” replies: I have researched this question and my findings show there is absolutely NO convincing evidence that the use of magnesium combined with calcium promotes fractures.

There are several well-controlled studies where women were given supplements containing calcium and magnesium and they found that magnesium increased bone density. See (1) Ryder KM et al. “Magnesium intake from food and supplements is associated with bone mineral density in healthy older white subjects.” J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005;53(11):1875-80. (2) Stendig-Lindberg G., Tepper R., Leichter I. “Trabecular bone density in a two year controlled trial of peroral magnesium in osteoporosis.” Magnes Res 1993;6:155-63. (3) Abraham G.E., Grewal H. “A total dietary program emphasizing magnesium instead of calcium. Effect on the mineral density of calcaneous bone in postmenopausal women on hormonal therapy.” J Reprod Med 1990;35:503-7.

In addition, there are vast amounts of data showing that magnesium deficiency in our society is widespread and increases the risk of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, migraine headaches and fibromyalgia.

Ethical shopping

I was disheartened to learn that two companies whose products I enjoy have sold out to huge corporations to whom I prefer not to give my money (Tom’s of Maine to Colgate-Palmolive and Burt’s Bees to the Clorox Corporation). I’m glad I read the Letters to the Editor (Sound Consumer January 2008)!

The main reason I shop at PCC is the diversity of ethically produced items available. Colgate-Palmolive and the Clorox Corporation still won’t have me as a customer. Their products are available at all large grocers and drugstores.

With this in mind I have to ask, do they really deserve shelf space with a retailer such as PCC? Sure, the products themselves may not have changed but considering their ubiquity and now dubious ownership, I personally don’t believe they deserve to be sold at PCC anymore.

We all have the option of shopping at the big lot stores. But it’s hard to keep up with business deals and who owns what, but I vote with my dollars. It’s the only real power I have to support the things I care about. Thanks for any input you can provide on PCC’s stance on this issue.
— Lisa Merrick, West Seattle

Editor: PCC very much supports and seeks out smaller, independent and trustworthy companies. The problem is that buyouts and mergers are so common that fewer companies remain independent. (See Phil Howard’s Organic Industry Structure to see a chart illustrating who owns organic brands.)

If we discontinued all the brands owned by large corporations, we’d have a very small, uncompetitive offering. Burt’s Bees and Tom’s of Maine have built up a loyal following over the years and we continue to offer them as a customer convenience. Be assured that we’ll watch for any ingredient changes. Meanwhile, we encourage you to try some of the great products from smaller, independent companies.

Grapes in winter

I just returned from PCC Greenlake and to my great disappointment saw that the non-organic grapes imported from Chile had returned! They’re like the sea lions at the Ballard Locks that keep swimming back even when shipped all the way to California!

I thought that PCC had done away with the offending non-local, non-organic grapes. What happened to PCC’s local, organic mission?
— Joe Olson, Seattle

PCC Produce Merchandiser Joe Hardiman replies: Many PCC shoppers demand grapes year-round. Non-organic grapes sourced from Chile are, in fact, one of our best-sellers in the winter. PCC always advocates eating local and organic (see Global warming & food choices, March 2008 Sound Consumer cover story) — and 93 percent of the produce we sell is organic — but we also offer high-demand produce even if it’s not organic in the off-season.

Understand that shipping organic grapes by air from the southern hemisphere would be prohibitively pricey. If transported by boat, they’d mold since organic standards prohibit mold inhibitors.

Also in this issue

Your co-op, March 2008

Talk to the board, Notice of annual PCC membership meeting, 2008 board election, and more