Letters to the editor, March 2009

This article was originally published in March 2009

Electronic Sound Consumer?

I just received, read through, and recycled my latest edition of Sound Consumer – after tearing out the paper coupon that I will likely forget to take with me on my next big PCC purchase.

I am very happy with the information I receive from the Sound Consumer and enjoy looking at the advertisements. I am not at all a fan, however, of the paper-based format and wish PCC would discontinue distributing it en masse, providing primarily the electronic/online copy instead.

But how then would we get our coupons? I suggest an annual sticker to place on our PCC card (since we need the cards to use the coupons anyway) that can be marked off with use.
I also would love to be able to choose when I use my 12 discounts throughout the year rather than only having one per month as the current system stands.

I personally make many large purchases in the fall and winter when I’d like to use my coupons but not as much the rest of the year. So allowing me to choose when to use my discounts really would help me out financially but that may be outside this issue.

Adopting these changes would 1) reduce paper materials considerably, and 2) make using the coupons easy to manage both for PCC and its members.
— Marie Walter, Redmond

PCC Chief Financial Officer Randy Lee replies: You raise an issue we’ve been looking at for some time but there still are a number of programming and cost barriers to implementing an electronic solution that would work with our membership structure. We anticipate, however, that we’ll be able to take some steps in this direction in the future.

(One prohibitive difficulty with the grid on the back of the card is keeping multiple cards current in most PCC households.) An online coupon is another possibility but people still would have to print it out on paper and bring it in.

The discount once a month vs. 12 times a year has not been discussed. While delivering an economic member benefit is the main purpose of the member bonus discount, the coupon also helps distribute sales throughout the year, contributing to our co-op’s financial health. We always try to reduce paper, communicate electronically, and look for sustainable solutions, but there are a few pieces missing for what you’re asking for, so far at least.

Foods from China

It’s my understanding that PCC sells only locally produced foods but I have read that even foods produced locally may contain ingredients imported from China and that there is absolutely no way for consumers to tell. 

Has PCC taken measures aimed at ensuring that substances specifically from China are not present in any of the products sold in the PCC markets? (Or is it even possible to do that?) Desperately looking for a safe place to shop.
— Maria Mitchell, Mukilteo

Editor replies: PCC gives preference to locally produced foods (if the quality and all else is equivalent) and we actively seek out family-scale local farmers and producers. But PCC also sells many foods such as citrus and packaged grocery from other parts of the United States and plenty of imported foods, such as chocolate, tea, coffee and tropical fruits. We know that a handful of frozen, organic vegetables come from China since they’re labeled as such.

But when it comes to canned or packaged foods with multiple ingredients — including those made or distributed by a local company — we have no way of knowing if any or how many of the ingredients are from China. In other words, just because the brand is “local” doesn’t mean all the ingredients are. Processed foods with multiple ingredients are exempt from the country of origin labeling law, so no grocer honestly can claim to have eliminated all ingredients from China.

Until there is a law requiring vendors to track and label the origin of all ingredients, the only way to avoid Chinese imports for sure is to buy whole foods — fresh vegetables and fruits, grains, beans, dairy, meat, etc. — and cook them yourself. See our products section on the Web site for more information.

Sustainable heating?

Editor’s note: In the December Sound Consumer, Kelly Miller of Bothell asked readers for feedback on what they set their household thermostats at during winter months. Kelly observed that we all know how to cut energy use when it comes to transportation but rarely do we hear about ways to cut usage at home.

Fifty-three people sent Kelly their tips for conserving energy, including hot water bottles, electric blankets, using lamps that are closer to the floor (since heat rises), closing off unused rooms, changing indoor clothing habits (think hats and layers), space heaters, plastic window wrap, moving their workstation to the window (for solar heat), lowering a thermostat slowly to allow for body adjustment, and many more. Here are two of Kelly’s favorite responses from readers who gave permission to be quoted:

Forget the thermostat! The thermostat, assuming it is accurate, will keep the temperature within a set range, regardless of humidity, sunshine, snow, cloudy days or rain. All of the above help to determine whether or not you are hot, warm, comfortable, cold or freezing.

Add to that, your mood. Add to that, if you were warm in bed, when you get up your body has a lot more energy and can accommodate colder temperatures. If you come in from the cold, the room will seem warmer. If you sit all day, your body needs more warmth. Don’t forget, every body has its own general tolerance.

If you want to have a lower heating (and air conditioning) bill, make it clear to everyone in your family and then allow them to move it to keep them within THEIR acceptable bounds. You may find it interesting to keep a running log for your family.

For myself: When the temperature goes down, my first line is to start layering clothes. I also start wearing clothes to bed, including a jacket sometimes. Why not? When I do turn on the heater, I immediately turn it off when I feel comfortable and find it often stays comfortable for the rest of the day/evening.

Also, exercising and spending time out of doors I believe does help acclimate your body. Have fun!
— Victor Eskenazi


Honestly, I think temperature recommendations from outside sources are faulty. I really think body temperature is highly individual, influenced by things such as thyroid function, body fat and hormones, to name a few. What feels like 68 to one person may feel like 55 to another, but there’s this assumption that we’re all experiencing temperature the same way.

People have different pain thresholds, different sensitivity to medications, even different tolerances for spicy foods. Why would temperature be any different? I would prefer that official recommendations (from utility companies or environmental agencies) focus on things like wearing two to three layers indoors (wool or fleece), keeping shoes or slippers on, good building insulation, closing off rooms not in use, etc.

Temperature recommendations are okay but should be broadened. I’m skeptical that recommendations to keep homes in the 60s all day are coming from people who actually are uncomfortable with that. I suspect that folks who recommend setting the thermostat at 58 at night or 65 during the day are not shivering in bed at 3 a.m. or in front of their computer at 7 p.m. They are endorsing these parameters because they’re comfortable with them, and folks who aren’t comfortable with them probably feel reticent to speak up and appear indulgent or wasteful.
— Lisa Hake

Editor replies: Among the 53 people who responded to Kelly’s letter in December, the daytime and evening thermostat settings ranged between 60 and 72 degrees — with an average of 66 degrees. The nighttime settings ranged between 45 and 69 — with an average of 59. Many thanks are extended to the readers who took time to respond and share their settings and tips.

Raw vs. nonhomogenized milk

I appreciate the decision of PCC to carry raw milk and wish to say “thank you.” The Lancet has numerous documented cases of the healthful benefits of raw milk including greater resistance to TB, prevention of tooth decay even in high-sugar diets, fewer allergic skin problems, and far less asthma than children who drink pasteurized milk. Successful raw milk therapy currently is provided in many hospitals in Germany.
— Roni Britton, Ph.D., Redmond

Editor’s note: Britton says reports of documented cases regarding resistance to TB and tooth decay appeared in the Lancet, 5/8/1937, p 1142. The documented cases regarding fewer allergic reactions and less asthma than children who drink pasteurized milk appeared in the Lancet 2001, 358(9288) p 1129-1133.

PCC, however, wishes to caution shoppers that we do not recommend raw milk for children, pregnant women, the elderly or people with compromised immune systems. Raw milk may be contaminated with dangerous bacteria capable of causing severe illness.


Recently I did my PCC shopping on Tuesday or Wednesday and already you were out of raw milk, despite the fact that you’ve been stocking quite a bit more than you did in the beginning. You only restock raw milk on Friday, so rather than having to wait a few days, I bought a half gallon of organic milk that was pasteurized but not homogenized.

When I got home, I was surprised to find that the cream on top had hardened almost to the consistency of sour cream — a thick paste at the top of the jug that I had to poke with a knife before I could pour anything out. That never happens with raw milk — the cream on top always is liquid and mixes right in when you shake it. This really drove home for me how radically the chemical structure of milk is changed by pasteurization.

I’d really appreciate it if you could stock more raw milk at the Greenlake store, so that hopefully you’d have it in stock all or most of the time. Thanks in advance.
— Teri Thomas, Seattle

Editor replies: Experience tells us that it’s very hard to produce a large supply of raw milk in a safe way. It takes time and meticulous attention to detail to do it right. So the safest product absolutely is from a small supplier. The simple reality is that our raw milk provider, Jackie’s Jerseys, is maxed out on what it can supply with 21 cows and staying small is desirable. The demand isn’t sufficient to seek out a second supplier.

Also in this issue

Garbage: Rethinking the need for bags

It’s ugly to admit I have loved the free plastic bags I got from stores. These bad-for-the-planet sacks have lined my kitchen waste container for years. It was the prospect of a proposed 20-cent-per-bag fee at Seattle’s grocery, drug and convenience stores that made me change my wanton ways.

A rowdy year in agriculture

Events related to food and farming, both organic and otherwise, have been somewhat astounding over the past year and a half. From world food riots to frantic price fluctuations for fertilizers and bold language by leaders at home and abroad, the first decade of the 21st century is on its way to leaving an indelible mark.