Letters to the editor, November 2011

This article was originally published in November 2011

Giving thanks

I am writing to express my appreciation for your very wonderful newsletter. I LOVE it. I read it from cover to cover as soon as it arrives in my mailbox. The articles are very educational and informative and the “Letters to the editor” are very helpful, too.

I am very dedicated to the organic movement and I consider buying organic products to be a very important “vote” for an organic world. I purchase 95 percent of my groceries at PCC, buying organic as much as possible.

The Sound Consumer helps me to educate myself on the important issues concerning organics and our world. It also informs me about PCC’s views on different issues we face when trying to make the best possible choices regarding our food and our planet.

Please continue to serve us in this very important way. Also, please consider expanding the Sound Consumer to include more pertinent information on these various subjects. Thanks again,
— Kyle Rook, PCC member

Whey protein isolate

I want to thank you for, and compliment you on, the “Taste PCC” event at our Issaquah PCC! It was very well done; the people in the vendors’ booths were friendly and knowledgeable, and it was gratifying to know that we could safely sample most of the foods offered.

It generally was easy to read the labels of the foods being sampled; my husband and I avoid soy, one ingredient we have to look out for in PCC foods. We consider ourselves very privileged to have a PCC so close to us and to be able to do the vast majority of our grocery shopping there. We’re enthusiastic and grateful lifetime members.

I’m always trying to learn more about healthful foods, and I read the excellent Sound Consumer faithfully each month. A letter to the editor (September 2011) discussed isolated soy proteins, and your response was very helpful. That response stated: “the whole idea of extracting protein from the rest of a whole food … is not a best choice.”

So, I was curious about an ingredient in one of the foods offered at “Taste PCC”: Zing Nutrition Bars. Several of those bars contain whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate.

While I acknowledge this is a far cry from soy, I’m curious about its food value. This product has a long list of ingredients, which normally would turn me away, and I wonder what I’m getting with this protein isolate.

Please continue to do the excellent job you all do in providing us with reasonable prices for superior foods. You’ve made an enormous difference in our lives.
— Donna Lee, Sammamish

Nutrition educator Nick Rose replies: The makers of Zing Bars say they wanted to create an energy bar with higher protein content than other bars on the market.

When milk is processed into cheese, it’s separated into the “curds,” which become the cheese, and the “whey,” which is left over. Because it’s a byproduct of cheese making, whey is an inexpensive ingredient manufacturers can use to add protein to foods. Whey is considered a “perfect protein” because it provides all of the essential amino acids. It contains about 80 percent protein, mixed with some fats, minerals, water, lactose and other compounds. It can be further processed into “whey protein concentrate,” which has closer to 95 percent protein, with smaller amounts of the lactose and other materials. Then, it can undergo one more processing step to become “whey protein isolate,” which is 99 percent protein. 

One major difference between whey protein isolate and soy protein isolate is that the soy often is isolated by adding solvents such as hexane to extract the protein, while whey protein isolate can be extracted without these solvents — so there is less of a concern with residues in the finished product. But, it’s still a “partial food” as opposed to a “whole food” so for that reason, many people try to avoid it.

If you are looking for a high-protein bar made with whole food ingredients, then try Bumble Bar (7 grams protein); Kind bar (5 grams); or the Nutiva bar (6 grams). But, if you really are looking for a bar with a higher ratio of protein to carbs, the Zing Bar is a good choice — it has more than 12 grams of protein. PCC Bakery’s Kasha Energy Bar has 11 grams of protein and the Harvest Fruit & Nut Bar has 16 grams.

Vegan desserts

As a shopper who frequents the Fremont PCC, I was at first surprised — and so happy — to find that the bakery department was carrying a large selection of vegan desserts. Cookies, cupcakes, cakes, cobblers, mousse … the bakery had it all!

I’ve noticed in recent weeks that the vegan desserts seem to be all but disappearing from the Fremont PCC. I occasionally used to indulge in a slice of vegan German chocolate cake or Chocolate Mousse Cake, but on my last few trips to the refrigerated bakery case, there were none to be found. Some vegan cupcakes here and there and the occasional vegan cake, but nothing like before.

I understand there may not be as big a demand for vegan desserts as PCC had anticipated, but could there at least be special days of the week when vegan desserts are made? Seeing that special vegan touch made my PCC shopping even more exciting.
— Meghan Dwyer, Seattle

Deli Retail Manager Robin Kuczynski replies: We’re glad you like our vegan desserts so much and apologize if we’ve been out of your favorites on days you’ve visited. We’ll make sure to increase production for our Fremont store.

Supplement ban?

I’ve been hearing on the radio, seeing videos on the Internet, and getting mail from friends that tell me the government is trying to control the sale of something as basic as vitamins, which we use to try to keep ourselves healthy, and keep ourselves from having to go to the doctor any more than we have to. We get some of our vitamins from PCC, and some elsewhere. 

We’re hearing that because there appears to be money to be made in the manufacture and sale of vitamins/supplements, some laws are being considered that might have the same companies that advertise all the drugs on the news every evening be the only ones allowed to sell supplements, and that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is getting involved in ways that seem, simply put, over the top.

Now, given that we’ve come to trust PCC for being a bit more straightforward with its customers, and significantly less “over the top,” I thought I’d ask you — what’s up with this? Do you have any more details? Are you tracking this or governmental stuff like this?

Let me know what you’re doing, and what we as consumers can do. Thanks in advance,
— Tom Roush

Editor replies: The dietary supplements industry has launched a grassroots campaign to oppose the “Dietary Supplement Labeling Act,” introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).

The proposed bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (presumably the Food and Drug Administration) to create a list of ingredients and blends of ingredients that “could cause potentially serious adverse events.” This overly broad language (no definition is offered of “could cause,” for example) takes the regulation of supplements well beyond the current, effective rules governing the industry.

Reputable industry leaders support actions by FDA to hold accountable those who violate the law. They believe, however, that current regulations are sufficient. The U.S. supplement industry has an excellent safety record and maintains that burdensome, duplicative new regulations are not needed.

It appears that this proposal has an uphill climb in this Congress.

Zero packaging

I just want to make sure PCC is aware of a new idea: a zero packaging grocery store in Austin, Tex. (see http://in.gredients.com/). I would love to see “less” packaging options. Thanks!
— Brian Peterka

Editor replies: If funding works out, the new store will open soon and be called “In.gredients.” It will specialize in local and organic ingredients and promises to be the country’s first package-free, zero-waste grocery store. Shoppers will be encouraged to bring their own containers for grains, oils and dairy. If a shopper doesn’t have her own containers, the store will provide compostable ones. In.gredients also will serve as a community center with cooking classes, gardening workshops and art shows.

Seventh Generation, TFA (cont.)

I am writing to urge PCC not to stop carrying Seventh Generation products simply because a member doesn’t like the fact that the company supports Teach For America (TFA). I write this because the Sound Consumer editor seemed to be saying in the October [2011] issue that PCC was considering replacing Seventh Generation’s products except for diapers.

Your product selection criteria should be food and health oriented, not based on a member’s dislike of a certain organization that is supported by a manufacturer. Reasonable minds may differ about the efficacy of Teach For America, but it is a respected, well-intentioned organization.

I don’t know exactly why the teachers union opposes TFA coming into Seattle, but surely its opinion should not be enough for PCC to act as requested. To boycott Seventh Generation in this circumstance would be most disturbing. And where would it stop if PCC’s decisions are made on such a basis?

Please let me know what PCC plans to do about this issue. Thanks.
— Amy Stephson

Editor replies: We have no intention of discontinuing Seventh Generation products just because the company donates to TFA. Our response in the October Sound Consumer was simply to let shoppers know we have alternatives to almost all Seventh Generation products. The “Letters to the editor” section of the Sound Consumer is a forum for readers’ thoughts and opinions.

Also in this issue

PCC Farmland Trust and Theo Chocolate: A delicious new partnership

We are thrilled to present, in partnership with Theo Chocolate, our PCC Farmland Trust Organic Fair Trade Cherry & Chili Dark Chocolate Bar!

Small local producers

The relationships we’re building are allowing both PCC and our farmers and artisans to thrive — and making it possible to bring more delicious local, sustainable food to our tables.

30-year study: organic superior

The Rodale Institute has completed 30 years of its Farming Systems Trial (FST), America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture, and the results are in: organic rules!