Letters to the editor, June 2008

This article was originally published in June 2008

GM sugar beets

Thank you for your articles on genetically modified beets (News bites and Insights by Goldie, April Sound Consumer) and especially for giving the link where we can get involved. It is the articles you write, the foods sold in the stores, and the people that work there that make PCC more than just a store. I think of PCC as my partner in helping to save our world food supply — one shopper at a time. Thanks for all you do!
— Susan Grumman, Issaquah, Wash.

Dietary supplements

While I agree that the food and agricultural products that most people purchase today are not as nutrient dense as they should be, taking supplements is not the only or best solution. (See May Sound Consumer, Is diet enough? The case for supplements).

Seek out farmer’s markets and farmers that grow high-quality, locally grown, optimally harvested, minimally stored fruits and vegetables. Consider planting a small garden if you own a house. Everyone can be an indoor gardener year-round by supplementing their diet through sprouting.

The rush to supplementation can be a distraction and a crutch. While I’m sure that Dr. Ballard is not supportive of fortified candy bars and soft drinks, these are bad examples of unnecessary products that blur the line between harmful foods and supposedly healthful supplementation. Agricultural deficiencies combined with dietary sins and added supplementation (regardless of the quality) never can equal the benefits of a healthy vital diet.

Financially, supplementation generally is an expensive proposition and not affordable by many. From a social justice perspective, the negative externalities of corrupted farming practices place those who cannot afford supplements at greater risk.

Consumers should not have to pay their food bill twice: first for poor quality food and, second, for less-than-perfect supplementation. Let’s move the problem back where it belongs — on the farm, not in our pocketbooks. Health should be a birthright, not a privilege.
— Alan Ismond, Bellevue

Dr. Tom Ballard, ND, replies: I totally agree. We all should be able to eat fresh organic foods and live in a non-toxic environment. Unfortunately, that’s not the current reality. A major part of my work as a naturopathic physician is educating people away from corporate farming and medicine, and toward a healthier, organic life.


Just a quick note to thank PCC Fremont for employing knowledgeable staff. Today specifically, it was the third time in as many years, I spoke with Reed in your PCC Fremont store to ask a truly complicated question about supplements. No matter how scientific the answer needs to be, Reed always, always, always has the answer.

My closest large, health-based store is in Bellevue, where I spent the entire morning calling customer service departments of various vitamin manufacturers after being told by my local store, the regional office, and their head office, that other than their vitamins being subjected to third-party testing they did not know their origin, nor did they have answers to other important questions. The customer service departments of the vitamin manufacturers were only slightly more helpful.

Reed, on the other hand, did have the answers about how the vitamins were tested exactly and a reasonable idea of where the ingredients originated. Well done PCC. I shop PCC Fremont whenever I’m south of Northgate and thankful for it!
— Ross Morrissey

Applause from Indiana

I just want to congratulate you on your fabulous store. I live in Indiana and would give anything to have a place to shop like this. You guys actually care about what your customers consume, whereas most — and I do mean most — don’t care about making the population a little healthier.

I have been on the fitness and healthy eating wagon for quite some time now and struggle to find the food that I will eat. I do not buy anything with high fructose corn syrup, enriched flour, or hydrogenated oils, and I’ve learned to read labels very closely to catch ingredients that they try to trick us with.

Keep up the great work and keep healthy! If you ever think of expanding outside Seattle, please consider somewhere in the northern part of Indiana!
— Kathy Saker, Monticello, Indiana

Bisphenol A

Thanks for your excellent article on bisphenol A (BPA) (Diacetyl and bisphenol A, May Sound Consumer). I was completely shocked to find out that BPA is used in the lining of metal cans. Which leads me to wonder — do the cartons used for liquids such as chicken broth also contain BPA? Or are these a safer alternative to canned chicken broth?
— Monika Danos, Seattle

Editor: Based on FAQs posted on www.ewg.org, those tetrapak cartons are made up of six layers of material, including paper, aluminum and polyethylene — a comparatively benign plastic that doesn’t contain BPA. Remember, there’s no argument from industry that BPA migrates into food. The argument is whether it’s safe or not. Most food safety organizations at this time are saying it’s safe, while scientists are finding evidence that it is not.

Plastics and food

Back in August of 2006 the Sound Consumer ran an article (Safer food storage for better health) on plastics used for food storage and potential health issues. I have a toddler and find that most kid tableware (plates and bowls) is made of Melamine or unmarked plastic. Are you aware of any safety concerns related to these? We’re trying to teach our daughter how to do things by herself, which means things frequently get dropped, so breakable tableware isn’t an option right now.
— Monika Danos

Editor replies: The best option may be a wooden or enameled camping bowl or plate, or simply to put her food on the table — avoiding plastic altogether. Glass and stainless steel are the only truly non-porous material. All plastics are porous to some degree allowing some migration into food, especially if exposed to heat and/or light.


The food contact issues (with bisphenol A, pthalates or other plasticizers) aren’t the only concern. The very manufacture of plastics releases an array of highly toxic emissions, including benzene, dioxin and sulfur oxide (creates acid rain), and that raises questions about what kind of world we expose our kids to during their lives and leave them after we’re gone.

In the deli: what’s the latest news on recyclability or biodegradability of deli containers? I believe sour cream (dairy) containers are recyclable in Seattle. Perhaps PCC could switch to a container similar to dairy containers if this issue is still pending final resolution.
— Adam Morley

Editor replies: The PCC delis’ half-pint, pint and quart round plastic containers are recyclable, although lids never are because they get stuck in recycling machinery. The fiberboard containers for hot food are compostable in home compost systems, but not yet recyclable through Cedar Grove; they don’t degrade within a required 60-day window.

We encourage you to bring your containers — dairy, glass or whatever — back to our stores for the deli to fill. Just put them with your bags in your car or backpack! You’ll get a ten-cent discount for each reused container.


I try to keep my plastic bag consumption to a minimum by using my own bags and refusing bags at stores. However, we inevitably end up with some plastic at home. I collect these for drop-off at my local PCC stores. However, I can’t seem to find information on exactly what can be recycled. Do the bags need to be intact for reuse? Can I recycle cereal bags, zipper bags, air-pack plastic?
— Bree Norlander, Redmond

Editor replies: You’ll need to talk with your local recycling service to know what’s recyclable in your area. In some areas, very clean zip-lock bags (washed out with NO dirt or oils) can be recycled but they must be contained in one larger plastic bag. Since you’re washing out your bags, however, you may as well reuse them.

Taking out the garbage

With all the discussion about whether or not PCC should offer paper bags, I am hoping you can answer a question that has been puzzling me: What kind of bags are people putting their garbage in?

I use paper garbage bags for garbage. I figure they’re degradable and better for the landfill than a plastic garbage bag that I’d purchase at a regular grocery store. What are some alternatives?
— Diana Brement, PCC member

Editor replies: You’re right that paper bags at least are degradable and work fine for containing used meat trays and greasy parchment from lining roasting pans. Most garbage, however, is from packaged, processed foods (e.g. aseptic cartons and snack food bags) and can go in a trash barrel without any bagging.

When you need a moisture-proof bag for really yucky stuff, the plastic BioBags (made from non-GMO plant materials are 100 percent degradable and compostable) are the best plastic choice. Another suggestion: freeze your yucky stuff and take it out to put in a bag immediately prior to taking out the trash.

Keeping produce fresh

Thanks for the thoughts on putting out waste in apartment buildings (“Letters,” December 2007 Sound Consumer). Now here’s the question I have about plastic bag use. They help me keep veggies fresh from the market. Cooking often for only one, I frequently have to save large parts for the next meal. What do you suggest for lettuces, roots such as beets, carrots, ginger and parsnips, and celery? Think apartment dwellers. Gone are the days when I had my own garden, root cellar and space to store my lovely homegrown goodies.
— Kate Bromley, Lake Forest Park

Editor replies: Yes, old-fashioned root cellars worked very well, keeping produce edible for months but hardly anyone has a root cellar these days. I’ve found that wrapping rinsed greens and veggies in a clean cotton or linen towel, and putting them loosely in a reused plastic bag in the refrigerator’s produce drawer keeps them pert for as long as a week. The toweling absorbs excess water yet keeps the produce moist, and all the while prevents direct contact with the plastic.

PCC’s Nutrition Educator Goldie Caughlan says she simply puts her unwashed produce into the Evert Fresh (brand) plastic bags sold at PCC and that they also keep her produce looking fresh for a week. EvertFresh says its bags contain minerals that slow down the natural release of ethylene gas, which accelerates ripening and spoilage, and absorb ammonia and carbon dioxide that can be damaging. Remember, however, that even though something looks fresh for a week, nutrients degrade over time.

Also in this issue

News bites, June 2008

Nash Huber wins national award, “Natural” body care standard, Consumers still choose organic, and more

Insights by Goldie: $ense and cents-abilities: How to choose and use foods wisely

As food costs spiral upward, food shoppers who place nutritional health first will need to redouble their efforts to get the most food value from every food dollar spent. The time-honored advice for sticking to a food budget always has been to “shop with a list” of perishable and non-perishable foods you need ...