Letters to the editor, August 2008

This article was originally published in August 2008

Supporting safer practices

Thank you so much for your generous donation of $1,000 to Beyond Pesticides. It’s a true honor to have PCC’s support and to be collaborators in overcoming the extraordinary challenges ahead.

The most hopeful piece, the one that gives me the most optimism for the future, is the success of markets like PCC and the growing awareness of the people and communities that support them. Please know that we will use your generous support to elevate our national program of grassroots action and education.

We have entered a critical phase in our nation’s history where the work of grassroots people and organizations will play an increasingly important role in public health and environmental protection, as federal laws are either not fully enforced or are attacked and weakened, and science is politicized.

Our role at Beyond Pesticides is to support local education and action in our homes, schools, parks, hospitals and communities, and to effect changes in the marketplace that go beyond what regulators and legislators are willing to do. Beyond Pesticides has a track record of helping to move local policies and practices and, with your support, our efforts will seek to build on that foundation.

I know that you agree that this is a time to engage, not disengage. We intend to meet the critical challenges in front of us as we seek to ensure a safe living environment for our children and families. Thank you for standing with us and for your steadfast support of our program.
— Jay Feldman, Executive Director, Beyond Pesticides, Wash. D.C.

High fructose corn syrup

I just wanted to THANK YOU for refusing to accept the sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, in your store. I hope this attitude spreads! I live in Northern California and wish we had more stores following in your footsteps. Wonderful news. Thanks again,
— Astrid Coustier

Bikes for Education enroute to Togo

I am deeply pleased to inform you that we successfully loaded three 40-foot shipping containers of bicycles for our Bicycles for Education project. These containers sail from Seattle to arrive in Togo by the 9th of September. I will be arriving in Togo around the same time to help clear the bicycles through the laborious customs procedures, transport them to Sokodé, and distribute them to disadvantaged students — mainly girls — in our rural communities.

My goal for this note is to express my deepest thanks to all of you who have either directly or indirectly participated in making this project possible.

Through this project, I have gained hope and confidence that through cooperation, we can reduce gender inequality and the immoral poverty in our communities in Africa. This project does more than just providing bicycles; it gives Togolese students a new life and opportunity by helping them stay in school. Again, please accept my greatest appreciation for all of your support. I will bring updates upon my return in early October. Have a peaceful summer,
— Olowo-n’djo Tchala, Alaffia Sustainable Skin Care

Editor’s note: PCC members donated about 400 bicycles during bike drives at two of our stores.

Fluoridated drinking water

Thank you for your firm stance on the folly of fluoridated drinking water. I am so tired of hearing that “countless scientific studies” support the effectiveness of water fluoridation. When asked to produce such studies, the fluoridation proponents don’t seem to be able to do so. The National Research Council (National Academies of Science) study that you cited contains a wealth of scientific data calling fluoridation into question.

The position paper on fluoride and fluoridation from the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) is well referenced. If dentists would only read such papers! I have been very frustrated when trying to educate my colleagues about “the other side” of the fluoridation issue. A common response is, “I don’t have time to read all of these studies. I believe what the ADA is telling me.”

Having a DDS degree does not guarantee that one is well informed on all of the fluoride-related research. Not having a degree does not mean an “antifluoride activist” isn’t well educated on this issue and is to be dismissed. Your informative articles and your editorial integrity are refreshing.
— Paul G. Rubin, DDS, MIAOMT, Seattle


I am writing to give you my appreciation for your willingness to stand up to the pressure of the dentists’ special interest groups promoting water fluoridation. I am a person who is part of the small percentage of population hypersensitive to fluoride substances. I am not a whacko. I am a chemist by training.

I have a legitimate medical concern that the dental field brushes aside. I keep bottled distilled water in my office as I cannot safely drink Seattle city water. It is a necessary extra effort for me. You have my appreciation for your effort to give credit to the other side of this argument. It is right that all sides are heard.
— Marianne Lincoln, Redmond employee, Spanaway resident


I have just read your anti-fluoride comments in response to the letter from the dentist promoting water fluoridation. Thank you very much!!!!! I would so dearly love to have this medication removed from our drinking water.
­— Coleen George, Sammamish

Bisphenol-A and canned foods

I wrote to Muir Glen about the bisphenol-A (BPA) in their tomato cans. After all, I reasoned, why bother packing high-quality organic tomatoes in a can that leaches poison?

Muir Glen wrote in reply: “Bisphenol-A is a critical component of protective coatings used with metal food packaging and provides important quality and safety features … Muir Glen packaging compl[ies] with Food and Drug Administration requirements … Scientific and government bodies … have reached the conclusion that BPA is not a risk to human health.”

While the cans meet FDA guidelines, the exposure limits were determined without real consideration that a few billionths of a gram of BPA affect human cells. One scientific paper said that “BPA causes changes in some cell functions at [low but FDA-approved] concentrations [in samples of] human … tissues. In contrast to these published findings, BPA manufacturers persist in describing BPA as a weak estrogen and insist there is little concern with human exposure levels.”

Because there’s no hard evidence linking consumption of BPA directly to disease, government and industry panels find BPA is safe (and, no coincidence, cheap). This is inconsistent with common sense and the Precautionary Principle. Must BPA be like DDT, which took a generation to ban in the face of mounting evidence that it was harmful?

Being an organic food producer always has meant being forward-thinking, not hiding behind government regulations. I want Muir Glen to share some responsibility. But the only way they will change is if consumers vote with their pocketbooks.
— Claude Ginsburg, Seattle

Food storage in plastic?

Thank you very much for all the information recently about plastics. We’ve switched away from BPA drinking bottles but now I’m concerned about food storage. I buy organic bulk frequently and store many things in snap-closed reusable plastic containers. If these, too, are not safe (even for dry, cool storage) would some type of barrier inside the container help? I value these for airtight storage and it seems better to use what I have, if possible.

I look forward to hearing if PCC can affect any packaging for products currently in cans as well. I really truly appreciate your concern with larger food issues and not just how much you can charge.
— Rebecca Lowell, Seattle

Editor replies: All plastics leach to some degree. Industry does not dispute that. The controversy is whether such leaching is safe or not, and plenty of scientists are finding enough evidence to conclude that taking a precautionary approach and avoiding plastic altogether may be the wise choice, especially for food storage.

Glass and stainless steel are the only non-porous materials. PCC sells a variety of glass containers — from smaller ones for leftovers to larger apothecary jars with snap-tight tops that are great for storing bulk beans, grains and nuts. Washed-out peanut butter jars also work.

Meanwhile, PCC actively is urging manufacturers to use alternatives to BPA-lined cans. A few are switching to glass jars, which can be recycled and made into new glass jars repeatedly.

Freezer jam

I just read the article in July’s Sound Consumer (Summer in a jar) about making freezer jam. The author says to use up the jam made with Pomona pectin within a week after opening it and keeping it in the refrigerator.

I keep organic fruit jams, such as Cascadian Farms, in my fridge for several months with no problem. I don’t think they have any preservatives, unless citric acid is a preservative. My question is — how long will a jar of freezer jam truly last in the fridge once it’s opened?
— Leslie Geller

PCC Nutrition Educator Goldie Caughlan replies: Citric acid is added to jams to preserve color and prevent the fruit from turning brown. But what really retards spoilage of store-bought jams is the volume of sugar added. There’s so much sugar added, they keep for a long, long time in the fridge.

The Pomona pectin recipe, however, allows for a very low-sugar jam that essentially is raw fresh fruit and just as perishable. Keeping it in the fridge more than a week increases the risk of bacterial growth. But due to its fresh fruit flavor, you’ll find yourself mixing it with yogurt, topping frozen desserts, or enjoying it straight by the spoonful! If you won’t consume a jarful in a week, keep it frozen and scoop out what you need, as you need it.

Quality standards

I’ve just located your list of acceptable/not acceptable ingredients. (See Minor ingredients and processing agents, part of PCC’s Quality Standards, on our Web site.) It is fabulous and I plan to pass it on to everyone I know.

My only recommendation or request would be that you add a section at the bottom to list recent additions to the list and the date they were added. This would allow everyone to frequently check the Web site and see if anything has changed.

Thanks for the list. It will be very useful, with or without the addition of the section I recommend.
— Jan Carmella Swindle, New PCC member

PCC Web Site Manager Nancy Gagnat replies: Good suggestion, thank you! While creating and maintaining an additional list at the bottom of the Web page might be a little too time-consuming, I’ll put a “revised” date at the top of the page so people will know if they have the latest version. I hope this helps. Thanks for your feedback.

Also in this issue

Challenges to saving farmland, new program

In this month's article Kathryn talks about the challenges associated with saving farmland. She also announces a new donation program, the Farmland Sustaining Circle, new staff and provides a profile of The Grange Café.


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Not all shrimp are equal: wild shrimp vs. farmed shrimp

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