Letters to the editor, August 2011

This article was originally published in August 2011

Teacher thanks

I just wanted to give a glowing review of PCC Issaquah. The employees are amazing, I feel like royalty each time I enter the store. I’m always greeted with a smile and the staff really is knowledgeable about food. As a vegan, PCC is one of the only places I confidently can eat a meal, knowing that it’s made with love, high-quality ingredients and will energize my body. I feel confident my purchases at PCC are from the most sustainable and ethical sources possible.

I am the school-age teacher at Kindercare and took a group of children for a field trip to the store. We had a fantastic time. The children LOVED their tour and Julie was full of great energy and information. I appreciate the effort all the staff put forth to make the tour special. Going behind the scenes, it’s obvious that PCC has happy employees because they’re treated well. Thank you so much for providing us with strawberries, apples and cookies. The children loved the fruit and it makes my heart sing to see them enjoy a healthy treat. 

PCC is a grocery store that resonates with me and that’s hard to find! I feel so fortunate that I can enter one store and find all I need to create healthy, organic and sustainable meals for my loved ones. Thank you for being a conscious mind in the grocery business. Thank you for providing customers with the highest quality products, services and treatment!
— Ashley Heil

Just bananas

In response to the article on banana monoculture (Bananas at risk: the monoculture of America’s favorite fruit, June [2011]), I’d be willing to give many different bananas a chance.

I would be excited to see PCC make this a celebratory event: A “Banana Bash” with blind banana taste tests, banana peel toss, banana cream pie bake-off, banana eating contests … whatever! Ask kids, they’ll tell you how to do it. They’ll get excited about shopping at PCC and feel a connection to their consumer power.

It’s ironic that shoppers are stuck in one-banana mode. Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte — also stuck in one-banana mode due to their need to have predictable outcomes for shareholder profits — have trained us little shoppers well, guiding us down a slippery slope toward a banana crisis come full circle.

As Woodworth’s article informs, in this country bananas would be missed, whereas in other parts of the world a banana collapse could result in deaths.

“That next organic, fair-trade banana you buy just might save a life,” wrote Amy Goodman (“Chiquita’s Slipping Appeal”). I might say, “That next weird-looking organic fair-trade banana.”
— Pam Smith, Seattle

Non-GMO labels

Can genetically modified (GMO) foods and especially meat raised on GMO corn and soy be required to be so designated? Is this something PCC can consider supporting?

I do believe strongly that we, as consumers, deserve to have the information on which to base a choice. Not just GMOs, but also the modifying agents (the foreign DNA) need to be identified. This is especially important to people with multiple chemical sensitivity.

I also would like everyone to stop using the term “conventional” to connote non-organically grown food. Ideally, in the future, the “convention” should be organic! Better to leave off the “conventional” designation than to validate that the poisoning of food is the “convention!”
— Saskia Davis

Editor replies: We agree that organic is the only true “conventional” food and we have advocated mandatory labels on GMO ingredients since the 1990s, arguing the consumer’s right to an informed choice. Ballot initiatives this fall in Vermont and California to require labeling will need millions of dollars in financial support to succeed against the inevitable lobbying by Monsanto. Donations and volunteers will be crucial for victory. We also support the Right2Know march to demand mandatory GMO labeling (right2knowmarch.org). It starts in New York October 1 and ends at the White House October 16.

Indicating suspect foods would be easy for some products, impossible for others. How do we know for sure? Instead, PCC is working with the Non-GMO Project, the first third-party certifier to establish Best Practices and testing throughout the supply chain to verify non-GMO claims. There isn’t a grocery store in the country that can claim to be GMO-free but the project helps us move in that direction.

Corn sugar in gelato?

Not long ago, as I stood in line at Whole Foods Market to buy a tea, I glanced at the gelato ingredients. I typically would ask for a taste while I waited for my tea. Much to my surprise, I saw that the gelato contained “corn sugar.”

My logical mind told me that since it did not say, “Non-GMO corn sugar,” it probably wasn’t. I inquired only to be faced with puzzled looks. The supervisor looked it up and said it’s another name for high-fructose corn syrup.

The next time I was at PCC, fully convinced that its gelato would not contain this suspicious ingredient, I checked to make sure. There it was. I was really shocked.

Can we please get to the bottom of what this ingredient actually is and can we warn the trusting consumer with a sign so they can make their own educated decision? Thank you very kindly.
— Maria Rippo

Editor replies: It’s true that the Corn Refiners Association is trying to rename corn syrup “corn sugar.” However, the vendor of PCC’s gelato, Procopio, says its corn sugar is not corn syrup. Procopio’s owner says its corn sugar is a granulated product comprised of cerelose, dextrose and monohydrate, which then is mixed with cane sugar.

Sustainable seafood

As a PCC Cooks instructor and an avid supporter of sustainable and local seafood, I see that PCC carries clam juice and canned clam and oyster products from Crown Prince. When I looked at the label I found that the shellfish was sourced out of Thailand and China.

There are so many wonderful shellfish growers in this region and a bevy of products that ideally could be sourced from the Pacific Northwest, or if not locally, at least domestically. Recently on a trip to Uwajimaya I noted that it sold clam juice sourced in Maine. Would it be possible for PCC to start buying and stocking local (or at least domestic) shellfish products?

I can’t speak for the water conditions where Crown Prince sources its product. But experts generally agree that the environmental standards are far stricter in the United States than they are in Asia. For these reasons, and also because I prefer to buy local foods if they are available before buying something from far afield, I’m hoping you’ll consider this request. I think PCC shoppers are willing to pay a slightly higher price to keep money in their local economy and to have peace of mind in the product.

Overall, kudos to PCC for your continued commitment to sustainability and thanks for any information on these topics.
— Becky Selengut, author of “Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast,” PCC Cooks instructor

Editor replies: We’re happy to report that we’ve found a source of domestic clam juice from Bar Harbor Foods in Maine. You should see it in stores by now.

All our fresh and jarred shellfish is from Washington. The fresh Manila clams and fresh oysters are from Penn Cove Shellfish (Coupeville) and Marrowstone Island Shellfish (Nordland). Our fresh mussels also are from Penn Cove Shellfish.

Our jarred oysters come from Ekone oyster company in Willapa Bay. We’ll continue to look for canned clam and oyster products from other local or domestic producers, but so far we haven’t found any.

Crohn’s Disease cure

I’m wondering if you can furnish me with some information about an article on Crohn’s disease that PCC published four or five years ago. It was written by a doctor who lived in the Seattle area. She said she would not accept the advice of other doctors who say there’s no cure for this disease.

It went on to say that she, in fact, did cure herself and she provided an email address that she could be contacted at. By some remote chance, could I have a copy of that newsletter? I would be most grateful.
— (name withheld)

Editor replies: Dr. Judith Lipton, M.D., wrote that article, Conquering Crohn’s Disease, for the September 2005 Sound Consumer. She describes her research and treatment, using a combination of antibiotics that cleared her symptoms to remain Crohns-free today.

You always can use the search function on our website to find Sound Consumer articles back to 2000 at pccmarkets.com/sc/. Type key words into the box on the left side of the page and articles related to that subject will be listed.

Plastic bottled water, continued

A reader in your [June 2011] issue wrote saying she was “flummoxed” by PCC’s bottled water decision and argued that she believed her family was healthier from drinking bottled water. I want to thank PCC for getting rid of (single-serving plastic) bottled water, which is unsustainable and actually harmful.

Whereas Seattle drinking water is monitored two to three times daily, bottled water is monitored at best two or three times a month. Studies have shown it’s not necessarily healthier than tap water and Pepsi was forced to admit that its Aquafina bottled water is just improved tap water.

Moreover the cost is enormous — about $10/gallon compared with less than 1 cent/gallon for Seattle tap water. Also it takes two to three times more water to make the plastic liter bottles than the amount of water in the bottle. In many ways, bottled water is a privilege of those better off and, like gated communities, separates the privileged from the rest of humanity.

Finally, those who purchase and “live” on bottled water have less incentive to help pay for needed repairs and maintenance of the public water system. Get a filter system, but get real!
— Gary Chamberlain, Bothell

Long-time PCC members?

As a long-time PCC member, I notice that quite a few letters to Sound Consumer begin with the words “as a long-time PCC member.” How long do you have to be a member before you can claim to be a long-time PCC member?
— A long-time PCC member

Editor replies: Good question! Members, what do you think?

Also in this issue

MyPlate replaces food pyramid

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new, simpler image of a plate divided into basic food groups to replace the famous food pyramid that’s been used to guide Americans’ diets for nearly two decades.

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

This month's report includes local peaches, cherries, Washington apples, domestic avocados, Maui pineapple, oyster and sea scallop harvests, and how climate change may affect wine production.

News bites, August 2011

Imagination diet, Organic still growing, UC Berkeley sustainable seafood, and more