Letters to the editor, November 2009

This article was originally published in November 2009

Giving thanks

During this time of autumn harvest and abundance, I personally and sincerely would like to thank all of the people who come together to make PCC the exemplary market it is. Through all of the regulations, legislation and sometimes shady tactics of corporations and government, PCC always strives to operate by its values and be held accountable for its actions.

I commend you on this and express gratitude for your role in our nourishment and health every time we sit down to a meal comprised of PCC ingredients. Be blessed and thank you,
— Tina Saldana

Advocating for good food

I just want to say I received the September Sound Consumer (Organic food integrity starts with seed integrity). Congratulations! I mean, boy, do we need this kind of push.

Just keep your business going and everybody’s out there to support you. I’m one of them and you’d think I’m probably an enemy because I’m a biochemist. But god we have ruined our food supply in this country with the corporate mentality. You have a winner.
— Victor Henry, Seattle

Supporting WSU

We have big news to share. You probably already have heard about the $15 million our CAHRNS researchers have won in the competitive USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) this year, but I wanted to provide you with a copy of the news release we issued to media and encourage you to spread the word.

I also want to thank you sincerely for your part in supporting the specialty crops research initiative of the last Farm Bill, as well as for your strong and unwavering support of our research programs over the years. The investments you make are paying large dividends that will benefit your industry and the overall agricultural enterprise in Washington. Best regards,
— Dan Bernardo, Dean, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resources, Washington State University

Editor’s note: A couple of us from PCC have had the pleasure of continued dialogue with Dean Bernardo and others from Washington State University, our state’s premier agricultural institution. The $15 million received by WSU is nearly one-third of the total USDA money awarded, placing it among the top recipients in the country.

FYI, specialty crops is a term that includes fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and horticulture and nursery crops. Research funds were not available previously for these crops, unlike the long-running programs for commodity crops, such as wheat, corn and soybeans.

Acid alkaline balance

I read with interest the article on the acid alkaline balance (October [2009]). The idea of systemic acidosis was fascinating. However, I was confused about how one knows one actually has the problem. It seemed that the testing of blood, saliva and urine was problematic, and that there wasn’t a definitive test for acidosis.

I had thought the term acidosis normally refers to acidity of the blood plasma, with a pH over 7.45. This is clear criteria. Similarly, I thought that there were clear guidelines for testing for metabolic acidosis, even the kind of acidosis arising from ketosis, as so many followers of the Atkins diet are fond of testing for.

Could you clarify the kind of acidosis your article is attempting to address and how one can test for it definitively? Cheers!
— TJ Osborne

Author Candace McNaughton, N.D., replies: Mild, chronic acidosis should be distinguished from metabolic acidosis — but they’re on the same spectrum. Metabolic acidosis is diagnosed when the blood pH falls below 7.35.

The diagnosis has not been firmly established, though I’ve proposed some criteria. The key is to take multiple factors into account rather than, say, one urine sample. Looking at your protein intake is a way for a person to estimate, rather than a firm diagnosis.
Not all charts of the pH effect of foods in the body will be the same because different approaches are used. Some sources measure the pH of a food after burning it (ash residue) and some, like the one used in my article, measure the overall balance of acids and bases in the blood after eating a food.

Reusing deli containers

I just read the September Letters and would like to respond to the frustrations of no longer being able to reuse our containers at the deli. I, too, was surprised when told reusing was a no-no. Then inspiration hit as I stood holding my plastic!

I asked if my carrot salad could be placed on a piece of waxed paper and weighed. I then put it in my container myself and the label went on another paper. The deli person placed the paper and food on the counter and I slid that waxed paper right into my container. I don’t really want my food touching that plastic anyway. Carrot salad must be one of the gooiest foods the deli sells, so, if I can do it with that, you can do it with anything.
— Janna Wächter

Corn syrup

I share Julia Adam’s astonishment (Letters, September) that PCC has banned high fructose corn syrup but not corn syrup. Your reply that the issue is not currently under discussion was tersely unhelpful. Consumers trying to do the right thing need all the help they can get. Can you please explain in simple terms why high fructose corn syrup is bad and corn syrup good?
— Susan Montacute, Fall City

Nutrition educator Goldie Caughlan replies: The distinction between regular corn syrup and HFCS is pretty narrow. There’s more processing and manipulation involved in making HFCS but HFCS is only about 5 percent higher in fructose than regular corn syrup and not much different from table sugar (sucrose) or even honey. Also, mercury contamination (as a result of processing) was discovered to be linked to HFCS after we eliminated products with HFCS.

I didn’t mean to suggest corn syrup is good, simply that merchandisers have not discussed trying to eliminate corn syrup per se. We know regular corn syrup is likely to be from genetically engineered corn, that non-organic corn is heavily pesticided, and that corn is a heavily subsidized crop, making it a cheap sweetener that has become ubiquitous in non-organic “natural” processed foods and also in many others with organic ingredients.

Vendor compliance

I was on your Web site to learn more about PCC and ran into some horrifying news regarding the FDA’s ruling that food from cloned animals and their offspring are okay for human consumption. I know that PCC works hard to protect the consumer when our government falls short and for that I applaud you.

While I agree with you that food from cloned animals is not okay, I’m also curious how you track whether a supplier is following PCC’s standards? I saw the form that suppliers sign but other than the signed agreement is there further inspection of a supplier to make sure it’s being honest and not going back on its word never to use cloned animals in its products?
— Brenda Alvarez

Editor replies: PCC gives preference to and relies almost exclusively on ranchers with so-called “closed herds” ­— meaning they maintain or increase herd size by raising calves born to the herd instead of bringing in outside calves or heifers. That essentially eliminates concern about cloned animals or their offspring slipping in. Buying organic provides some assurance since cloning is prohibited by organic standards.

Read labels to make choices

May I respond to the letter re: buying a product (ice cream) at PCC, then being startled to discover an ingredient she’s not sure is healthy? (Letters to the editor, September 2009) It’s important for people to realize that as valuable a resource as PCC is, consumers still need to keep an eye on the labels of anything they buy, stay informed, and be selective.

A key problem is that there isn’t universal agreement about what’s “healthy” or good for the human body. Some people still adhere to low-fat, high carbohydrate diets, or hold that vegetable oils (such as corn oil or soy oil) are healthy. Others who are just as health-conscious try to limit carbohydrates, avoid polyunsaturated oils, and cook mainly with coconut oil and butter.

Some PCC shoppers still regard soy as a health food. Others of us regard it as a toxic adulterant and avoid anything with soy in it. Some feel a vegan diet is superior nutritionally (or morally) to one that includes animal products. Others who are at least as well informed believe animal products are an essential part of a healthy diet.

My “ideal” PCC store would include no soy, no polyunsaturated oils, no sugars, no pasteurized dairy products, and all-organic meats. But I recognize, as I’m sure the stores have, too, that not everyone shares these viewpoints.

So while I appreciate the wide range of choices available, I still read the labels. Believing that anything found at PCC (or any store) is likely to be good for you assumes that there’s widespread agreement about things that are still far from being sorted out.
— Nils Osmar

Humane slaughter

I’m a longtime vegetarian but I recently moved in with my meat-loving girlfriend and her sister. I really enjoyed the article about Thundering Hooves (Harvesting Sunlight, August Sound Consumer) and was reminded that I became a vegetarian to protest factory farm cruelty. Since Thundering Hooves seems to do everything else right, how do they slaughter the cows? Are they treated humanely, with dignity, and killed without shock or pain? I would love to know.
­— Julie Tzucker, Seattle

Editor: Our merchandisers have queried each and every meat vendor about the slaughter practices employed and believe they all meet the Humane Farm Animal Care standards. Specifically, Thundering Hooves is one of only a few livestock producers in the country that fully owns and controls its own processing operation with a USDA slaughter trailer on the farm.

Rancher Joel Huesby adds: For detail, here goes: The fat cattle are brought from nearby pastures into the corral system, usually on foot or sometimes by horse, but not by noisy 4-track. Employees know to be quiet and handle the animals with the least amount of stress (no yelling, running, etc.) The cows are then held in a pen separated by space, visual queues and smells upwind of the “knocking box” to reduce arousal. Individual cows are sorted and moved through a circular lane, which is curved so they cannot see what’s around the corner.

The animals are in the knocking box for the shortest time possible. A retractable bolt gun shoots a steel rod into the brain, the lights go out and the animal goes down, not knowing anything more. I imagine it to be like a bee sting followed by instant sleep. Hope this helps.

Related Reading

Just a pinch — traditional spices

A pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Adding just a bit of the traditional holiday spices — cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger — can provide a bounty of health benefits, while seasoning your cooking.

Your co-op, November 2009

Board report, Fall member meeting, PCC Farmland Trust solicitation, and more

Organic cotton: As important as organic food

When you think about supporting organic agriculture and choosing sustainably produced products, don’t forget cotton — the world’s most important non-food crop. Non-organic cotton is considered the world’s “dirtiest” crop by the Environmental Justice Foundation.