Letters to the editor, March 2010

This article was originally published in March 2010

Let food be your medicine

I just got the paper and read Let Food be Your Medicine: Green Medicine (February 2010). I tell you, we have to have more of that kind of reporting. I’m a chemist and want to say we don’t need drugs for health. Thanks for the article, keep up the work, I’m behind you 100 percent.
— name withheld on request


Your recent article in the Sound Consumer was one of the best and most inspiring pieces I’ve read in a long time. I am currently working hard to get off my anti-depressant, and diet and exercise are playing an important part. In addition, I have begun taking micronutrients.

I thank you for your thoughtful, intelligent and well-written article. Keep up your good work.
— Constance Parsons


While there are many aspects of Dr. Ballard’s article that I wholeheartedly agree with, I can’t help but be offended by his bias against Western medicine. To posit that the food industry is working with the medical community to keep people sick to make a greater profit is an absurd proposition and shows a lack of integrity on Dr. Ballard’s behalf.

Health care providers in Western medicine are not the enemy. Go after the food industry by all means but do not tear down the good people that effectively take care of millions of people in this country.
— Sharon Palubinskas, Seattle

Author Dr. Tom Ballard, N.D., R.N., replies: As a registered nurse and a naturopath, I have worked with M.D.s cordially for more than 30 years. I definitely want N.D.s and M.D.s to work together at curing the root causes of disease.

It was the author Michael Pollan that I quoted (and agree with) who said, “There’s lots of money to be made selling fast food, then treating the diseases fast food causes.” He is not attacking M.D.s but rather a system that thrives on illness and ignores the nutrition literature.

GE resistance

I sent an email to all of my friends, summarizing your article USDA: organic consumers don’t care (February 2010) and asked them to submit a comment and spread the word. Thank you so much for sounding the alarm and keeping us apprised of developments that most definitely have a negative impact on the organic movement and, ultimately, on the health of our planet. With appreciation,
— Caron LeMay, Kirkland


I really liked your article about keeping genetically engineered (GE) organisms out of organic foods. How can the U.S. Department of Agriculture think organic consumers don’t care? Jeeze, GE contamination is a huge reason I buy organic despite its price, to show with my dollars that I don’t like GE food or pesticides! We have to keep up the fight!

I’m 25 and a single mother and reading the Sound Consumer gives me a sense of community. I lost my job in October and that has been tough but I still shop at PCC because it’s just too important.
— Katie Lehto

Free-range chicken feed?

Please provide us with information so we may make educated shopping choices regarding Ranger chicken feed. Does the chicken feed contain pesticides and GE crops? If so, will PCC consider taking a stand against selling food that supports these industries?

As I’ve followed the articles about GE practices in the Sound Consumer (I consider it invaluable for education about food and agribusiness), I have sadly realized how food/health concerns are now beyond antibiotics, hormones and pesticides. As PCC reports, GE corn and soy compound the food choices I make.

If not for PCC, many people would not have the knowledge to make informed choices. Thank you for all that you do. I hope you will continue writing about these concerns.
— Name withheld upon request

Editor replies: Ranger chicken is from the Draper Valley operation (Mt. Vernon, Wash.), which does prohibit antibiotics but does not screen for and does not exclude GE soy and corn. It therefore would have no prohibition against pesticides, since GE technology relies on pesticides and herbicides. The Ranger brand is a less expensive choice than our organic chicken, raised on non-GE feed.

A1 vs. A2 milk?

I read about the difference between A1 and A2 milk in the December 2009 edition of Acres U.S.A. (also in Keith Woodford’s book, “Devil in the Milk”). Woodford’s thesis is that a mutation many years ago created an aberrant protein in some cows, now referred to as “A1 cows.” The milk from A1 cows has been linked to several problems, such as Type 1 diabetes, autism and heart disease, whereas the milk from cows with the original A2 protein has not. Does PCC carry A2 milk?
— Christina Cyr

Editor replies: The simple answer is yes, PCC does sell A2 milk since all milks contain both A1 and A2 beta-caseins. However, several studies and sources say Guernsey, Brown Swiss, and Jersey cows (in that order) produce proportionately more A2 while Holsteins predominantly produce A1.

All PCC milk providers have mixed herds — except for Jackie’s Jerseys, which provides our raw milk from an all-Jersey herd. (Note: Raw milk is not recommended for pregnant women, children or people with compromised immune systems.)

Former PCC Nutrition Educator Leika Suzumura, R.D., replies: Peer-reviewed journals have published research on this debate, but the conclusions about whether A1 is linked to various diseases are not consistent. It appears the original claim arose in 2002 during a dispute between two competitive dairy companies, Fronterra and A2 Corporation, which makes me question whether the health claims were genuine beyond economic motivations.


Liked the salt article (Salt of the earth and sea, January 2010). Two important points not mentioned are that many salts have aluminum (considered to contribute to Alzheimer’s) for anti-caking and sugar for no good reason.

I did a short survey at Safeway: Safeway Plain Salt (contains silicoaluminate), Morton’s Iodized (dextrose), Safeway Iodized (dextrose, aluminum, as well as sugar) and Morton Lite Salt (dextrose). I know I’ve also seen sugar and aluminum in other salt brands in the past. I’ve also seen small-package, restaurant salt bags with aluminum.
— Phil Mahoney

Homemade yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles

I loved the probiotics articles (January and February 2010). I made old-fashioned dill pickles in a crock (part of a summer of canning) and wanted to try sauerkraut next. I’ll pick up some cabbage and get to work!

Regarding making your own yogurt, I’ve been doing that since late summer, prompted by friends from India who always have made their own. It’s not difficult at all and it’s now part of our routine. I was prompted to make our own because we consume almost a quart of yogurt a day and I wasn’t happy about all the packaging that involved.
— Marypat Meuli

Biotech flavor enhancers

The surreptitious introduction of Senomyx S336 and similar biotech “flavor enhancers” into the manufactured foods market has added new, untested pharmaceutical products to the food supply. They’re in kitchen and table seasonings, marinated, injected at slaughter, and in crop sprays and fertilizers. Low concentrations, less than one part per million, exempts them from FDA-required testing for human safety. The only known testing: an unpublished three-month “safety study” using rats.

Senomyx S336 and similar products were developed by a biotech firm, using the human genome sequence to identify taste receptors on the tongue and in the mouth. They’re marketed as MSG/aspartame replacers and “flavor enhancers” and have spread through the food supply since 2005. No labeling is required. If a manufacturer advertises “No MSG,” the product probably contains Senomyx S336.

A public safety concern: Far lower concentrations of biotech “flavor enhancers” produce the same illusion of taste as older excitotoxins, such as MSG and aspartame. They act proportionally more powerfully upon the human nervous system.

The relevant safety issue is the effect upon the human organism, including synergistic interactions with our body burden of synthetic chemicals, medications and toxins. (One individual experienced several dosage-dependent synergistic adverse reactions with a common blood-pressure medication, causing complete esophageal blockage.)

No known investigation has addressed possible low-dose toxic effects. Several peer-reviewed studies document long-term neurological damage caused by prenatal exposure to very low levels (2-5 parts per billion) of older neurotoxins (PCBs, etc.).

See Melanie Warner, “Food Companies Test Flavorings that can Trick the Taste Buds,” New York Times late (east coast) edition, April 6, 2005, p. C1.
— Win Smith, Kent

Home gardening

I’m a longtime gardener and was looking for some new, fun varieties of tomatoes to grow this year. A Google search of tomato varieties for the Pacific Northwest produced a Sound Consumer article from 2003, though it came up as the second link! I chuckled when I read the story of growing tomatoes under a cherry tree. I, too, have found that tomatoes need far less direct sun than some suspect.

I’m at about 1,000 feet elevation and I grow cayenne peppers aplenty, along with Hungarian hot wax peppers and great jalapeños. Just start plants indoors from seed in March and wait to put them out until May. The only pepper that has failed to ripen was habañeros.

These results are year after year in a garden that only gets full sun until the afternoon and in the fall even less. Don’t believe the books, I even grow okra! Thanks for your site,
— Angie Wright

Toxic waste in fertilizer

I have just forwarded to you an article from mercola.com on toxic waste from coal-fired electric plants being spread on vegetable farms. Please consider researching this subject. This hasn’t hit the mainstream news yet, but reminds me of the old fluoride story, i.e. waste product from industry added to municipal water supplies.

Please consider looking into this. Thank you so much,
— Deanne Truess, PCC member for 35 years

Editor replies: I spoke with Catherine Withey, organic material review coordinator at the WSDA Organic Program in Olympia, and she confirms that gypsum derived from recycled drywall or from byproducts of coal-fired power plants would not be allowed for use in organic crop production. The only gypsum allowed in organic production is mined.

You can see the WSDA Approved Inputs List on the Organic Program Web site: http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/Organic/MaterialsLists.aspx.

Also in this issue

New PCC Web design

We hope you come visit our redesigned, reengineered and recharged Web site. Thanks to our virtual spring cleaning, it’s now easier to find delicious recipes, co-op events, food news and a wealth of helpful new features.

News bites, March 2010

Organic Valley benefits, Justice sues Dean Foods, GE traits transfer to animals, and more