Letters to the editor, December 2010

This article was originally published in December 2010

Real Change vendors

On weekends at PCC Issaquah, Bruce Osman sells the “Real Change” newspaper. Over the months, I’ve talked with Bruce and have learned his amazing story. I’ve noticed that some shoppers will pass him and say things like “Get a job” or ignore him completely. Obviously, Bruce has a job and, in fact, has pulled himself and his family from homelessness by selling “Real Change.” If you talk to Bruce, he is open about his past and why he still sells “Real Change.” Last spring he moved his family to Issaquah so his middle school aged daughter could have a better education.

My hope is that all of us will educate ourselves about why vendors like Bruce sell “Real Change,” or why a store in our community would allow someone to sell “Real Change” outside their doors. If you’re interested, Bruce will tell you. Did you know the goal of “Real Change” is to “create opportunity and a voice for low-income people while taking action to end homelessness and poverty”? Visit realchangenews.org to get the facts.

Bruce has a great story to tell and my hope is that seeing Bruce sell his papers will enlighten our community about low-income people, homelessness and poverty. You don’t have to buy a newspaper but how about a smile, a look in the eye, or a kind greeting? It costs nothing to show honest, decent respect for these hardworking vendors who have chosen to work rather than beg on the street.
— Maryanne Johanson

Pure Eire dairy

Thank you for including Pure Eire Dairy milk in your dairy case. This farm sets an exemplary standard when it comes to animal husbandry and I am so pleased to support them. Unlike most dairies, Pure Eire allows newborn calves to live on pasture with the herd and nurse from their mothers. I don’t know any other farm that does this. I am also so happy that the cows are 100 percent grass-fed, year-round. I will be a loyal customer of Pure Eire Dairy and I thank you wholeheartedly for carrying their milk. Gratefully,
— Rebekah Youngers, Bellevue

Non-GMO shopping

I think I learn something new every time I read Sound Consumer, thank you for that! In October’s back page article (“PCC partners with the Non-GMO Project”), in the sidebar, “What foods are GMO?” you reported the USDA percentages of GMO products. I buy organic to avoid GMO ingredients and I’m as concerned as the next person. However, I also have heard that the actual percentage going into the food stream is not nearly as high as those you cited. Much of the GMO corn and soy goes into the myriad of other products produced with corn (biobags, ethanol for gas).

My concern is that implying that 86 percent of non-organic corn (in food) is GMO may be sensationalistic. I rely on PCC to accurately represent food issues so consumers can make educated decisions. Best regards,

— Rebecca Lowell, Seattle

Editor replies: The 86 percent figure is USDA data. It is the percentage of the U.S. corn crop that intentionally is planted GMO. Due to contamination, mostly at the seed level, it’s likely that even less than 14 percent of this country’s corn is truly non-GMO.

Truth about fats

I appreciated the article that alerted us to issues with polyunsaturated fats. However, I find following the author’s advice to limit/avoid polyunsaturated fats problematic for two reasons. She did not give direction on how much polyunsaturated fat is too much. Also, many food product labels list only the amount of saturated fat and trans fat but not the other types of fat that make up the total. Short of contacting every manufacturer about their products, we’re left guessing how much polyunsaturated and monosaturated fat content a product contains.
— Heather McAuliffe, Seattle

Author Cherie Calbom replies: How much polyunsaturated fat is too much? That’s not easy to answer. Polyunsaturated oils provide omega-6 fatty acids predominantly, and while the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should be 2:1, the ratio of the typical American diet today can be as much as 25:1. Ideally, our omega-6s should come from whole grains, raw seeds and nuts, legumes and vegetables.

Polyunsaturates are problematic because they’re quite unstable. Once the oil is separated from the source, it oxidizes (turns rancid) easily and it is oxidized oils that are implicated in many diseases. The big problem is that the oils are deodorized so we can’t smell the rancidity. Sometimes we can taste it, but many times we can’t. It may be oxidized before we even open a bottle of oil or package of food. How much can we eat of this oxidized oil before it harms our body? I don’t know if anyone knows the answer to the amount. It think it’s far safer to avoid margarine and polyunsaturated oils, and why not? We have so many other choices.


I am frustrated after reading “The Truth about Fats.” Several years ago my physician tried to prescribe medicine for my high cholesterol. Since I was only in my thirties I refused and tried to tackle the problem with diet. Now I find out that the Organic Earth Balance spread I have relied on to lower my cholesterol is loaded with polyunsaturates from soy oil. Probably doing more harm to my arteries than cholesterol would have. I really have no trust left and I wonder if many of these studies are biased toward whatever corporation is funding them. Back to olive oil and butter.
— Kristin Ericson 

“The Truth about Fats” is an important article because it begins to re-evaluate the role of dietary fats in the promotion of health and disease. Although fat plays an important role in health, essential fatty acids are the only necessary fats in our diet. The human body can make saturated fat. Therefore, it’s not necessary and should be limited because it increases LDL cholesterol, which is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends “limiting the amount of saturated fat you eat to less than 7 percent of total calories.”

The scientific literature shows that a western diet of extracted oils, white flour, sugar, dairy, and meat progressively damages our blood vessels, generates free radicals, and oxidizes LDL, which leads to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. A low-fat, plant-based diet that includes unrefined starches, beans, vegetables and fruit reverses atherosclerosis, lowers body weight, and decreases insulin resistance.
— Gavin Moloney & John McDougall, M.D.

Calbom responds: There are plenty of studies to support these claims but many studies show that saturated fats cause HDL cholesterol (“good fat”) to go up — a good thing and important. A number of studies also show that polyunsaturates caused HDL to remain the same, or go down. So, what’s more important? I don’t know because I haven’t seen a report that answered that question, although it may exist.

However, I have not seen new research that indicates general LDL cholesterol is an indicator of a major risk factor in coronary heart disease. Rather, it is oxidized cholesterol that is a major risk factor and it is oxidized oils that contribute to oxidized cholesterol, rather than non-oxidized saturated fats. Additional research on saturated fats is posted with the October Sound Consumer, archived online.

Organic policy?

I’m writing about an inconsistency in policy on PCC products. I first noticed this two years ago when I tried to buy some organic peanut cooking oil. Because peanuts alternate in fields with cotton, the peanut oil usually is highly loaded with agricultural chemicals. As I looked around, I realized that there’s a hole in the PCC policy. I believe that as with household cleaning products, PCC should sell only organic product versions when they involve contamination concerns. It’s quite puzzling to me that a policy like this isn’t in place.
— Conrad Fiederer

Editor replies: Your query prompted a product search and merchandisers discovered that an organic peanut oil from Spectrum is available now. We’ve authorized it and discontinued the non-organic. Thank you for caring enough to write and make the difference. PCC’s policy is to provide organic choices whenever available at reasonable prices.

Columbus Day flags

I was surprised to see American flags out at the Edmonds PCC on Columbus Day. It seems that there’s little to celebrate about the continuing genocide of Native Americans that was initiated by Columbus’ “discovery.” Or about the exploitation of the Earth that has been the hallmark of Western European global domination.

I appreciate that PCC reliably provides fantastically healthy food and actively supports the local sustainability of that food. So flags on Columbus Day seem, uh, out of place? Thanks! Best regards,
— Carol Hiltner founder, Altai Mir University

Plain food

This is a comment for those who design or order gluten-free food products. Since gluten sensitivity is associated with autoimmunity, why shouldn’t gluten-free foods be dairy-free and have either no oil added, or olive or canola oil? Low sodium also is helpful since people can add more if they choose. Added calcium and even vitamin C can be problematic for some of us.

There is a need for more plain “uncontaminated” food, especially staples such as nuts, beans (including canned so we don’t always have to cook them), rice, dried fruit, juice, etc. so we truly can choose what we eat and stay healthy.
— Hoping for more plain foods, Kirkland

Zevia labeling

I usually take time to read labels before I buy something new and I’m quite certain that when I first picked up Zevia, it was sweetened with stevia. Since I liked it, I recently bought some more.

However, it wasn’t quite the same. When I looked at the label, I saw that it is actually sweetened with erythritol. It has some stevia in it but hardly a main ingredient. I’m disappointed.
— Jeanne Celeste

Associate Grocery Merchandiser Elin Smith replies: Zevia is sweetened with a combination of stevia and erythritol, and the VP of sales explained their order on the label this way: “Nothing has changed in the formula. Ingredients have to be listed by weight, according to U.S. packaging rules. High-grade stevia is about 180 times sweeter than sugar and erythritol is about 60 percent as sweet. So the stevia provides about 80 percent of the sweetness, despite being a smaller ingredient by weight.”

Also in this issue

Donations and gifts of all sizes

What do you give your favorite foodie who doesn’t want more stuff but savors the tangible experience of local, organic food and the people behind it? Introduce them to the farmers and chefs working with PCC Farmland Trust to save local, organic farmland forever!

Choosing to be a vegetarian: 2 views

We think you’ll appreciate these two views on vegetarianism, one from advocate John Robbins and another from Seattle naturopath Tom Ballard. We hope you’ll find their perspectives both affirm and challenge your own, and that you may even be encouraged to make room for both turkey and tofu at your holiday feasts. A naturopath's view » A vegetarian's view »