Letters to the editor, January 2009

This article was originally published in January 2009

Changes in agriculture

I seldom read an article as thoroughly as I did yours, An eater’s digest for change: challenges and opportunities for harvesting hope, in the December [2008] Sound Consumer. You not only gave us good reasons to consider changes in our eating and shopping habits but you also gave us reason for hope.

I especially enjoyed the Obama list of priorities on agriculture. Yes, there is hope! Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging words.
— Carol Lee Power, Kirkland

Facebook feedback

Thank you PCC employees for doing a great job. I especially want to thank the talented writers on the monthly newsletter! I get all kinds of good information there that I don’t find anywhere else. I really respect all the good work PCC does in the community. Not just a grocery store.

PCC makes it possible that people with sound values and more ecologically responsible products have a market. The store and the organization becomes a hub for progressive idealists of all kinds. I am really impressed.

I’ve been meaning to write a letter to the Sound Consumer editor for more than a year. Now I’ve got my thank you posted on this very public forum, so at least that’s done. Just wanted to say thanks everyone.
— Janine Mi

Editor comment: Janine’s remarks came to us through Facebook, the online social networking system, which has a group of PCC shoppers participating.

Choices in sugars and sweeteners

Living on the Olympic Peninsula, I do not have the opportunity of shopping at PCC regularly unless I travel to Seattle. However, I shop as a visitor whenever I’m near one. I want to comment on the article, Choices in sugars and sweeteners in the [November 2008] Sound Consumer.

I’m glad sweeteners are a focus for PCC as this topic continues to be debated in the nutrition field. The article was informative and would have been particularly useful if it had additional information on the health effects of various sweeteners.

As a nutritionist, one of the most prevalent concerns of clients is how to understand the effects of various sugars on the body. We know that the benefits or downfalls of sweeteners depend on their effects on blood sugar and insulin levels.

Glycemic index and glycemic load are powerful measures of these effects. Several published scientific studies document the correlation between consumption of high glycemic index sugars and the incidence of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.

Low glycemic index sweeteners such as agave nectar are perfect for not elevating blood sugar levels to unhealthy levels. In the end, it’s this type of information that is most impactful to the long-term health of the consumer. Perhaps this could be a future article.

Thank you for supporting community-based good eating! Kind regards,
— Deanna Minich, PhD, CN, foodandspirit.com


Every month I look forward to reading the Sound Consumer from cover to cover. I especially appreciate the cover stories, as much research and thought goes into their writing. As a Certified Nutritionist with a Masters from Bastyr, I find it important to keep up with current food issues in order to have a responsible discussion with my patients who want guidance and specifics.

The cover story in November’s issue, however, instead of focusing on healthier, low glycemic sweeteners such as agave nectar or more complex sweeteners such as brown rice syrup, merely gave information about less-refined cane sugars for use in baking. A list of alternative sweeteners gave no guidance regarding these potentially better choices.

This information has little relevance for those of us who wish to prepare foods that avoid the worst aspects of refined sugars. We need to hear more about how to adapt low glycemic sweeteners in recipes to avoid the immediate rise in blood sugar, with resultant food cravings that follow.
— Barbara Schiltz, RN, MS, CN and PCC member, Clinton

Editor: Understanding the glycemic index is something a few of our articles have touched on, but you’re right, it’s a deeper story. I’m planning one for late spring or summer. Thanks!

The thinking behind November’s cover was that it’s the baking season and we hoped to encourage newer shoppers to consider less-refined and unrefined cane sugars instead of the standard white in recipes. Newer and occasional shoppers are likely to be many steps away from using the kind of sweeteners you’ve come to appreciate and, frankly, liquid alternatives are much trickier.

Describing them in the sidebar and referring to our sweeteners brochure for substitution tips was a gentle way of encouraging shoppers to begin exploring the alternatives. I hoped mostly to begin swaying the overwhelming majority of the people who come into our stores to realize there’s a rainbow of alternatives.


Given the winter holidays, I appreciated the article “Choices in sweeteners” and the comments by naturopathic physician Tom Ballard, that “sugar steals nutrients.” I’d also like to add a very pleasant surprise we found after a few months on our own low glycemic diet: everything else, from veggies to whole grains, tastes so much sweeter and more satisfying! Food choices really do shape tastes and tastes can change.

I would like to point out, however, one alternative sweetener not on the list: Lakanto. As a family, we’ve found we all feel better, look better and function much better when not eating refined sugars or flours. When we want that occasional sweet taste, we like Lakanto.

I haven’t baked with it yet but I have heard great reviews about baking results. It is fantastic in the sweet and sour cabbage recipe and a little goes a long way.
— Name withheld on request

Editor: Latanko is a brand name for a product that’s essentially erythritol, which we do sell — a certified organic erythritol called “Zero.” Erythritol is one of the sugar alcohols (sorbitol and maltitol are two others). We didn’t mention them in the article because a fair number of nutritionists don’t encourage sugar alcohols, though they tend to believe erythritol might be one that’s okay.

There isn’t much research on sugar alcohols, especially consumption by children and pregnant women. Including it in the article perhaps would have suggested that we recommend it for baked goods that children and pregnant women are likely to consume. The research on erythritol so far reportedly is encouraging but does not answer lingering concerns involving children and women of child-bearing age.

Global warming and food choices

Though I do most of my grocery shopping at PCC, I’ve purchased groceries off and on from an online grocer that documents the number of miles my food has traveled to get to their warehouse. I was curious to see if PCC ever has looked into writing down the number of miles your products have traveled to get to the Seattle area … maybe have this information on the tag with the price? I feel that it would greatly help us conscientious consumers in keeping our carbon footprint as light as possible. Thank you for your consideration.
— Emmy Hager


I’d like to see better labeling of items sold in PCC’s bulk bins for where they come from and how they’re grown. I applaud PCC’s proactive stance on subjects like sterilization of almonds and would like to see that level of information for all the items. Such a lack of information frustrates efforts to eat locally and regionally.
— Michael Kucher, Ph.D., Wallingford

Editor replies: Merchandisers are working on developing country of origin labeling for bulk foods. They’re redesigning the bulk signs with new software but bear with us until the new program is ready.

Understand that bulk items such as beans are traded commodities and not covered by new rules on country of origin labeling (COOL). Wholesalers don’t have to notify us when they change sourcing from the United States to China or Bolivia, for instance, so the bulk labels probably will have to indicate the possible countries of origin — at least to start.

We currently don’t track transportation miles because that alone isn’t an accurate gauge of the fossil fuels used or greenhouse gases emitted. Growing methods, the type and amount of packaging, and the mode of transportation can lead to some surprising conclusions. See our March 2008 story Global warming and food choices.

Campaign for safer cosmetics

I’m disappointed in my Ewg.org research results on a hand lotion I purchased at PCC; I determined that the Shikai brand has not endorsed the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Why doesn’t PCC buy only from companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics (CSC)?

By not limiting the selection to CSC signers, I cannot look over labels at your stores and know that I am judging the full list of ingredients. It seems like PCC’s lowest, easiest level of quality control for this section of the store would start with the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.
— Julia Adams, PCC Member

Editor replies: Be aware that PCC was the first retailer to sign on to the CSC, back in the spring of 2007. At the time, we wrote to all our vendors, including Shikai, letting them know that if they aren’t pledged to support the Campaign by the end of 2008 they’ll be subject to possible discontinuation, depending on where they are with reformulating.

Our merchandiser met with Shikai’s representative recently and learned that Shikai’s scientist still is working on reformulating but hasn’t had good luck replacing the parabens that are a barrier to compliance. Shikai says it’s trying.

Be aware that the CSC gives manufacturers three years to comply, given complexities in sourcing ingredients and reformulating. So, even under CSC’s requirements, Shikai could sign on today and spend three years reformulating.

Eat local campaign

A hearty thank you for supporting the Eat Local for Thanksgiving campaign. Your generous contribution of the production cost for the “Eat Local” transit signs allowed us to spread the message further and for longer than we imagined.

With your support, we exceeded last year’s total for the number of people taking the Eat Local pledge and were successful in working with a farmer to donate more than 1,500 servings of fresh vegetables for Thanksgiving dinners to those who normally don’t have access to such delicious, fresh foods.

Thank you again. You and your company are a great credit to our community.
— Wendy Dore, Puget Sound Fresh

Also in this issue

The first farm: January harvest and a forecast

The New Year on the Dungeness Delta brings Brussels sprouts, kale and super-sweet carrots to our tables — as well as gratitude for such bounty to our hearts and busy hands. While many other farms wound down a while ago for winter, our crew at Nash’s Organic Produce is digging deep into a cold, wet harvest season.