Letters to the editor, September 2010

This article was originally published in September 2010

Customer service

I am writing to offer feedback about my positive experience at the Edmonds store one Friday afternoon. I needed to return a package of defective tortillas that we buy frequently and met Janet at the front of the store. Upon confirming the defective product for feedback to the PCC buyer, she instructed me to take two new packages of tortillas in exchange for my inconvenience and declined my offer to check my receipt.

I was so blown away by this old-fashioned, goodwill approach to customer service (empathy, generous recompense and absolute trust), I tripled the amount of items I had intended to purchase that day.

On another note, I loved the ciabatta roll w/avocado, cilantro and Brie from the deli section. The quality of ingredients, plus the combination, was richly divine.
­— Jonathan Cameron Pasley, Seattle

Giving thanks

This is to your customers: I’m a little bit tired of reading letters month after month coming from irate customers scolding PCC for being an imperfect filter of today’s excuse-for-food market (ex: discussions on local food, agave nectar, etc.).

Did PCC ever put out a promise never to carry a single item that contributed to anything other than an environmental and economic utopia on planet earth? As far as I know, PCC is so far ahead of and beyond any other major grocery retailer, we should be praising it up and down, not getting obsessive-compulsive about every last item in the store.

Based on the customer standards I read in Letters to the Editor, we would be left with one shelf of food from which to choose. Fanaticism does not help us move forward. Until we see major policy changes in our country, we simply cannot expect perfection from anyone, only an effort to do the best we can. PCC makes this effort far and above anyone I know. If you want to get irate, please write to Safeway.
— Meghan Kaul


I was disturbed by the rant in the July [2010] Letters to the Editor, Local vs. Imports. Anyone who feels that, by being a co-op member, one is afforded the right to “scold” a PCC employee (in the fish department) or return a purchase deemed flavorless after admitting to product seduction (where I end up paying for the loss), well, that person needs to self-reflect a bit and tone down the urge to control others. Or just shop elsewhere.
— Karleen Wolfe

Baked goods “too sweet”

I had to smile at the letter in the July issue from a Japanese member of PCC complaining that the bakery goods often were too sweet. While I agree that some baked goods really are too sweet, I also would suggest that there is another factor at work in this situation.

I have heard many Asian people complain about the sweetness of American baked goods. Yet, having lived in Asia for four years, I remember quite clearly the teeth-clenching sweetness of many sweets from Japan, as well as those from China and Taiwan. These sweets were overwhelmingly sweet to me and did not fit my palate at all.

My Asian friends were shocked when I suggested that these goodies were too sweet for me. It seems to me that tastes for different foods and the way that we interpret different flavors is just as culturally bounded as the movies that we enjoy or what we consider funny.

So, while I have no issue with the idea of reducing the sugar in overly sweetbakery goods, as an avid baker, I would hate to see a lovely chocolate chip cookie, sumptuous brownie, or fruit-filled pie become something that is no longer recognizable as a sweet treat.
— Craig Mitchell, Seattle


I do enjoy your Golden Zucchini muffins because of their good, nutritious and flavorful ingredients but have often thought they would taste even better if you baked them with half of the sugar. I could then eat the muffins as a delicious breakfast bread in place of having toast and jam, or as a light tea-time snack instead of feeling a sense of being forced into a “sugar overload” after eating only half of one.

I am thinking other PCC members feel the same way. All of your baked goods don’t need to be as sweet as cookies, cakes and desserts.
— Julia Shozen

PCC Deli Retail Manager, Robin Kuczynski replies: Thank you for the feedback! We have been looking at this closely and actually cut the sugar substantially in the past four months on our zucchini muffins. We also are talking about using natural sweeteners more often, such as brown rice syrup, fruit juice, etc.

Real Change vendor memorialized

Many Seward Park PCC shoppers came to know and love Robert Hansen, the Real Change vendor who sold the paper at the store for a number of years before his passing in April. Robert would stand outside the doors, greeting customers, holding dog leashes, sometimes helping to carry groceries.

Customers and friends have started work on a memorial book entitled “Dear Robert,” which will be a collection of thoughts about homelessness and letters to Robert, who we miss daily. Letters, drawings and photo submissions will be accepted until December 15 [2010] at dearrobertletters@gmail.com or 4609 S. Snoqualmie, Seattle, WA 98118.

We welcome the involvement of folks with graphic design, printing and marketing experience. Proceeds from the book will be donated to Real Change. For more information, call Anne Frantilla at 206-412-2661 or Cheryl Brush at 206-760-9348.
— Cheryl Brush

Hydrate for health

I just received my August edition of the Sound Consumer and was happily reading an article entitled, Do you drink enough water? until I got to the part that mentioned flavored and bottled water.

I quickly looked to see who had written this article and was surprised and dismayed to see that the author is a faculty member at Bastyr. I expected someone from Bastyr to be more eco-friendly and, I guess, more “back to basics.” Why does anyone need flavored water?

The flavored water idea reminds me of long ago when people often gave babies a bottle of sugar water. Of course, we now think and know that this was a bad idea. But how is flavored water much different? Can’t people re-learn to drink plain (filtered) water again?
— Mary Anderson, Mountlake Terrace

Author Cynthia Lair replies: I included flavored waters because studies show that humans will consume more water if the water has a slightly acidic and/or sweet flavor. This may be critical when children and teens are playing sports in hot weather. By the time thirst is apparent, dehydration has already begun and heat exhaustion, due to dehydration, is the second most common sports “injury” among children. I recommended making our own flavored waters for our beverage containers to save on packaging.

Palm oil

I notice that the palm oils sold in your grocery aisles are sustainable (e.g., the palm oil harvested in Africa for the product is native to Africa) but there are lots of other products in your store that contain unsustainably raised palm oil.

Are you aware of the numerous problems associated with palm oil? Some of the larger problems that are caused by palm oil are deforestation, loss of coral reefs, and displacement of people.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s largest producers and exporters of palm oil in the world. Palm oil plantations in these countries are created by the clear-cutting of some of the world’s most biodiverse rainforests at the rate of two million acres a year. Another problem is silt from the plantations washing down streams and rivers where it ends up smothering coral reefs.

The problems don’t end there. In the process of creating the plantations, indigenous people and subsistence farmers have their land stolen from them and then (according to “The Jakarta Post”) are forced to work for one-fifth the wages they made working their own land.

I know you strive to have the least ecological impact for everything you carry but since palm oil certainly is not a low impact product, why is it in so many of your products?
Even if products contain organic palm oil, the national organic regulations do not have anything that prevents crops from being grown on a clear cut rainforest.
— Nathan Williams, age 14, Vashon Island

Editor replies: Very savvy of you, Nathan. Some palm oil products are certified sustainable but you’re correct that the National Organic Standards contain no specific provision to prohibit clear-cutting. Such large environmental concerns were at the heart of the principles of sustainability and stewardship driving organic standards from the start but this concern is not written into the rules per se.

Palm oil producers aren’t the only ones to blame for clear-cutting; soy and biofuel industries also have cut a swath across the Amazon and elsewhere. See Are biofuels fueling hunger? for more.

One reason palm oil is so prevalent is that it’s a cheap replacement for hydrogenated fats, which contain unhealthy trans-fats.

Bee therapy

I’m hearing talk of honey, especially local honey, being helpful for allergies, such as hay fever. I’m confused by the idea that something ingested would make a difference for an inhaled allergen. Is there credibility to this idea and if so, how does it work? I’ve looked for studies regarding this and have only found three from the 1950s-60s written in German.
— Stephanie Meyer, Redmond

Editor replies: I’m sorry but we don’t know anyone to recommend with expertise in any apitherapies.

What vegetables are GE?

I sometimes buy frozen vegetables at Thriftway, including ones made by Birds Eye and C & W (also a Birds Eye brand). I wanted to know if they use genetically engineered vegetables in their frozen foods. I thought by asking the question it would be consciousness-raising.

Here’s the heart of the response I received from Birds Eye: “… Crops that are genetically modified generally are found in production agriculture (field corn, soybeans, cotton etc.). The fruits and vegetables used in Birds Eye Foods products are not genetically modified.”

I’m just wondering if this “rings true” to you all at PCC? Thanks,
— Mary Burki

Editor: Corn, soy, sugar beets, and canola are the primary vegetable crops that are genetically engineered (and a small amount of zucchini and yellow crookneck squash). Unless they’re certified organic or NonGMO Project Verified, I would assume that all products with these ingredients contain genetically modified organisms.

Also in this issue

News bites, September 2010

Raw almond ruling, Grass-fed milk, Calcium supplement heart risk?, and more

Your co-op, September 2010

Fall member meeting, Upcoming Talk to the Board opportunities, Board report, and more