Letters to the editor, October 2010
Sound Consumer October 2010
Organic CAN feed the world
Halfway through the September cover, Organic CAN feed the world, a voice in my head said someone needs to ride point on taking this to the feds and mass media — someone with extreme intelligence, multi-disciplinary understanding, scientific perspective, hands-in-the-dirt perspective, information capacity, articulation, passion, presence, speaking/writing skills, and inexhaustible work ethic. Someone who can weave the fabric showing the win/win/win/win/win/win/win.
Then I got to the part near the end that said a unified voice is precisely what the environmental/organic movement lacks. Then the byline. No wonder the article seemed to be so stuffed with facts! But the Rodale Institute has not been able to bring about that unification?
Then, in the morning, I read about a Washington State University Regents study, “one of the most comprehensive, persuasive studies yet to show the nutritional and environmental benefits of organic farming.” Ironic timing, or a sign?
— Jim Wells, Eugene, Oregon
In Organic CAN feed the world, the sentence “We need to export the knowledge we have gained about successful modern organic farming and help others adapt these practices,” should have this thought added: “We also should seek the help and knowledge of campesinos from around the world, many of whom have a lot to teach us about healthy, natural farming practices.”
— Name withheld
High fructose corn syrup
My eyes perked up when I saw the article, Corn Refiners Association: these treacle tricksters are no treat! (August 2010, Sound Consumer). Though a long-time Seattle resident and faithful PCC member, I now live in Kansas City but still get my Sound Consumer. (I miss you guys!)
Not too long ago I was afforded the opportunity to see a line of at least 70 to 80 railroad tank cars with the name “Corn Products International” on the side. After perusing its website, cornproducts.com, I found that it makes a variety of products. No matter what else this company may have inside those tank cars (starches, adhesives, whatever), my mind veered off into Worst Case Scenario World and imagined them all full of HFCS-55 … or higher.
The average estimated capacity of each of these food-grade tanks is 10,000 gallons. If my guess is right for the number of cars seen, we’re talking about approximately 750,000 gallons of HFCS. That’s a lot of “sweetsurprise!”
I love getting my issue of Sound Consumer every month and can’t begin to tell you folks how it grounds me. There is only one food co-op in close proximity to me and it is open only three hours a week for pre-ordered bulk product pick up. Of course, I suppose there’s always Whole Foods (sigh). With great affection and regard for what you folks do,
— Fred B. Mullett, Kansas City
The flavor industry
Thank you for yet another important, timely and informative article (The flavor industry, August 2010 Sound Consumer). You guys are such a great resource as we try to navigate through our messed-up food system!
But one (strong) quibble: At the end, the author provides a list of how to avoid flavoring and be more healthy, including: “Replace soda with stevia or cane juice-sweetened drinks.” That really jumped out at me.
There’s well-documented evidence of the health problems with sweetened drinks whether made from high-fructose corn syrup, or cane sugar, or stevia, or whatever. Even too much fruit juice has been shown to be problematic.
I understand the author is trying to get people to take one step forward but as an article in PCC’s paper (not the Seattle Times or Sunset magazine), it just makes sense for us to reinforce in a positive way the really right solution, rather than just the one step better thing.
So I’d suggest a thought more like: Replace soda with water (and perhaps milk). It may seem strange at first but soon enough your body, and the earth, will thank you for it.
— Marina Skumanich, Seattle
Author Dr. Samia McCully replies: I agree and don’t advocate sweetened drinks, or even juice! But there are many people who drink soda daily. For them, sugar- or stevia-sweetened drinks definitely are better than artificially sweetened ones. In my clinical experience, if people are not given options and do not see abstinence as a choice, they will go back to drinking soda (or whatever else it may be). For these people, it’s good to make small changes that are lasting.
Grass-fed for omega-3 fats
I’m a local PCC butcher. I’ve had quite a few conversations lately with customers about omega-3 fats. The question being, is there any other source of omega-3s besides fish?
The answer is yes, you can find omega-3s in the grass-fed beef and grass-fed lamb that we carry at PCC. There also are other sources to discuss with your nutritionist. So feel free to stop by for more conversations and discussion.
— Karim Ali
Editor replies: The meat from grass-fed beef, for instance, is two to six times higher in omega-3s than meat from grain-fed animals. The reason is that when cattle are taken off grass and fattened on grain they immediately begin losing the omega-3s acquired from grass.
Wild salmon is also known as a good source of omega-3s but anchovies and sardines are even richer sources. For every 3.5-ounce serving of fish, wild Alaska salmon has about 1.4 grams of omega-3s, anchovies have 1.48 grams, and sardines have 1.87 grams. Pacific Northwest pole-caught tuna has the highest level of all, with about 2.4 grams. PCC carries several brands of PNW pole-caught tuna in jars and cans, including Wild Planet, Pelican’s Choice, Sweet Creek and Tuna Guys. The best vegetarian sources of omega-3s include walnuts (2.6 grams per ounce, about a quarter cup) and flax seeds (1.8 grams per ounce), although flax reportedly isn’t as easily absorbed.
In September’s letters, under the title Bee therapy, the writer is looking to answer various bee medicine questions. The book, “Honey, the Gourmet Medicine,” by Joe Traynor, page 30, is particularly helpful. It’s a well-researched book with an excellent bibliography.
To answer the question of the effect of pollen on hay fever: there’s more data on honey having a positive effect than pollen. Pollen itself is encased in a very hard shell and even stomach acid has a hard time processing it. For further inquiry, the International Bee Research Association online will open a new world of connections.
— Don Newman, Master Beekeeper, Carnation
I was surprised to see there was no response available to Stephanie Meyers, who had written in asking about using local honey to help allergies. My daughter’s friend, Heather Harrell, who is a beekeeper in New Mexico, responded:
Honey contains traces of local pollens and when one eats honey, one eats the pollen as well. When the pollen enters the body and is digested, the body has to learn to accept it as a foreign substance, and the immune system is trained to identify it and not to attack it as a foreign intruder. The theory is the same one that governs homeopathics and suggests that even very poisonous substances can be ingested in increasing dosages and one eventually will obtain immunity.
Pollen therapy is given in the same manner, in tiny doses that slowly increase to larger doses until the system is immune. In order for this to be effective, the honey must be local and contain some local sources of pollen. Pollen can also be bought and ingested in very tiny amounts at first, even just one or two granules, then increased very gradually. It is important to note that pollen can cause a very serious and even deathly reaction in some people and should be handled as a medicinal substance until it is determined whether or not a patient is allergic. Honey has very small amounts of pollen and is an excellent form of therapy, as it is sweet and desirable to eat.
— Julie Arrowsmith, Seattle
No Golden raisins
Please explain Golden raisins. A reliable source explained that there’s no such thing as organic Golden raisins because raisins never are that color naturally, that they’re bleached and processed and never could qualify as organic. I’ve seen recipes that call for Golden raisins. Advice?
Thanks for your conscientious work to keep us healthy and provide a great newspaper. I want you to know that I keep all issues of the Sound Consumer for reference and to share. Online is all right but I like a hard copy to refer to and refresh my mind. Thanks for a great job!
— E.I., Mukilteo
Quality Standards Specialist Goldie Caughlan replies: “Golden raisins” are treated with sulphur dioxide, which is not approved for organic foods, except in some organic wines. There’s no allowance for fruit. It’s why PCC doesn’t carry those super-soft dried apricots — because they, too, are treated with sulphur dioxide. Substitute certified organic Sultana raisins in recipes. They’re a light brown color and are not treated with sulphur dioxide.
Roundup saving urban forests?
As a licensed pesticide applicator, I’m not surprised that organophosphate insecticides increase the risk of ADHD in children and I share concerns that Roundup’s overuse on genetically modified crops is spawning “super weeds” and ruining farmland.
As a forestry worker, however, battling the spread of invasive plants, this alarms me because Roundup is the safest herbicide we have. Losing this tool may create conditions where far worse pesticides will be needed.
Forest ecologists project Seattle will lose 70 percent of its parkland forests in 20 years if we fail to stop the spread of English ivy/holly/laurel, Himalayan blackberry, wild clematis, Japanese knotweed, and many other alien, aggressive plants. Blackberry thickets prevent native trees from re-establishing and give rats the food and shelter they need to thrive. These conditions increase the use of insecticides and rodenticides, plus a treeless landscape won’t soak up enough storm water to prevent toxins from fouling Puget Sound, orcas, salmon and our food chain, not to mention the risk of more landslides. I can’t predict the future of ecological neglect but concerns about Roundup should pale in comparison.
I’ll listen to peer-reviewed science that suggests anything safer but there aren’t enough volunteers, taxes, or concerned landowners to address invasive sources organically and it’s unacceptable to lose our green infrastructure.
— Steve Richmond, Garden Cycles
Editor’s note: Roundup reportedly is effective on invaders, such as blackberry, only if painted by hand on freshly cut canes.
BPA in receipt paper
Have you seen the recent report from the Environmental Working Group, ewg.org/bpa-in-store-receipts, indicating that many store receipts (about 40 percent) are printed on thermal paper coated with BPA (bisphenol A)? Does PCC use this kind of paper for receipts? Personally, I’m less concerned about BPA in paper receipts than in food can liners and baby bottles but it still would be prudent to eliminate it everywhere we can.
In the meantime, consumers can protect themselves by limiting everyday exposure to receipts. Pregnant women and parents of young children especially should be careful about BPA exposure.
— Kelly Stumbaugh, Seattle
Editor replies: PCC has switched to BPA-free register tape because we learned that the paper used to print our double-sided receipts contained BPA. We made this change to reduce exposure wherever we can for staff and customers. We’re not able to source BPA-free paper that allows double-sided printing now but expect to have BPA-free double-sided receipts sometime next year. Our deli and meat labels also are BPA-free.
As a rule, minimize handling receipts and throw them in the trash. Do not recycle them. If they contain BPA, they’ll contaminate new products. The EWG study found 250 to 1,000 times more BPA on receipts than canned food linings. To minimize other sources of exposure, store food in glass, enamel or stainless steel containers — all nonplastic and non-porous. Recycle old or scratched plastic containers. For a list of companies that have converted to BPA-free packaging, visit our Web page in Issues & Education — Bisphenol A BPA).