Letters to the editor, June 2012

This article was originally published in June 2012

Educated shoppers

In response to the letter, Encouraging Junk Food? (April 2012), I say this: If you can’t shop without a sense of trust at PCC then you can’t shop anywhere.

PCC is the only grocer that researches its products, communicates with customers, and goes to the effort of keeping customers informed with newsworthy updates of what’s occurring in our world of food. It must be doing an excellent job because the writer of the letter demonstrates an awareness that surpasses any shopper I know who doesn’t shop at PCC.

At the very least PCC gives us informed choices. It’s the most well-informed place to shop that I’ve ever experienced, plus the employees are the most helpful and have the best dispositions.
— Natala Goodman

BPA containers?

Are milks in aseptic containers, such as the Pacific brand soups and beverages, and Rice Dream, in BPA-free cartons?
— name withheld

Editor replies: According to simplesteps.org, “Aseptic cartons are a BPA-free alternative for soups, as well as tomato purée and sauces.”

Greens freshness

Why do packaged greens such as lettuce and spinach (in plastic clamshell containers) seem to last longer in the fridge, compared to fresh bunches of lettuce, which turn brown and rotten after a couple of days?
— Roger BelAir

Produce Merchandiser Joe Hardiman replies: It depends on how you keep your greens once they’re home. Greens in plastic clamshells retain some moisture, without being bruised or crushed but fresh, whole-bunch greens are less expensive, plastic-free and will last just as long if wrapped in clean, moist towels and stored in the crisper drawer. If you want to keep them more than one day, put them in a loose plastic bag. No matter how greens look, it’s best to eat them fresh since nutrients degrade some over time.

Butter flavoring: diacetyls

I’ve been hearing lately that Earth Balance spread isn’t good for you as it contains chemicals. What’s the truth?
— Cathie Howard

Editor replies: We discussed this issue in a May 2008 article, Diacetyl and Bisphenol A, explaining that diacetyl chemicals lend a “buttery” flavor but when heated produce carcinogens causing lung cancer. Earth Balance says it no longer includes diacetyl.

If you’re concerned, avoid faux “buttery flavored” products and choose real butter or olive oil. Bottom line: we trust cows more than chemists.

Ready-bake convenience foods

You’ve saved my life coming to Edmonds. I rely on PCC to be very strict with suppliers, so I need you to settle a confusing issue:

My sister baked some frozen cinnamon rolls and I passed, thinking they were Pillsbury. But my sister, noticing my reluctance, remarked, “These are from PCC, they’re safe!”

She even pulled the wrapper out of the trash to inspect and I was relieved to see the brand looked safe, Immaculate Baking Company. Then I moved to the ingredient list, and saw mono- and diglycerides. Gross! The rest of the ingredients weren’t too promising either.

I was shocked because those ingredients are not healthy from my research. Can you please shed some light on this issue? Thank you so much for all else you do!
— Janna Rose

Editor replies: The Immaculate Baking Company makes convenience foods, which often contain artificial ingredients such as the ones you cite. Mono- and diglycerides are emulsifiers used to help mix oil and water in the dough and have been considered “acceptable” by our grocery buyers and others, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Diglycerides are not allowed in organic foods as they’re virtually certain to be derived from genetically engineered soy. Sodium acid pyrophosphate is a leavening enhancer (in double-acting baking powders) and under review at PCC.

To see a list of what’s acceptable or not in minor ingredients and processing agents, visit our list of minor ingredients and processing agents.

The PCC deli’s handmade cinnamon rolls rely on simpler ingredients: organic unbleached wheat and spelt flour, organic cane sugar, brown sugar, unsalted butter, organic buttermilk, pasteurized eggs (eggs, citric acid, guar gum), dry yeast, salt, organic cinnamon, powdered sugar (contains corn starch), and organic whole milk. They’re fresh for a day or so but you can freeze them and reheat later.

BPS, soy and Wi-FI

Many thanks to PCC for alerting members to the dangers of the endocrine disruptor, BPA, and for removing it from PCC receipts. However, some receipts without BPA contain BPS, which also is harmful. If this is true for PCC’s receipts, it’s a problem for cashiers and customers. I worry about your employees who touch these receipts daily, many times a day. In addition, by handling them, they’re transferring BPS to customers’ foods.

Also, thank you for the article, Tofu or not tofu: quality and quantity of soy matter (April 2006), that mentioned the downsides of soy, especially isolated soy protein, and the advantages of fermented soy. Yet we find soy protein in products at PCC, such as Vegenaise. I’d like to stop seeing soy in PCC-made products.

Finally, I worked at Bell Labs years ago and, at the time, cell phones were thought to be safe. Over the years, science has accumulated showing cell phones are not safe. With regard to health and new technologies, we need to err on the side of safety. That’s why I shop PCC. I hope PCC will not install Wi-Fi or other wireless technology that may be dangerous.
— name withheld on request

Editor replies: Our receipt paper is BPA-free but does contain BPS. We’re considering electronic receipts that would appear on customer’s home computers but also are looking for a tape with no BP (there’s also BPP, BPF, HBP, BPE, BPB and TDP!). Studies show all BPs possess estrogenic activity but BPS is about two orders of magnitude less potent than BPA. See reply below for more on Wi-Fi and wireless technology.


PCC, we need you to be a leader: Please resist the electromagnetic tide and commit to being an electromagnetic radiation-free environment! With the presence of Wi-Fi, microwave ovens, smartphones and QR codes, and now wireless “SmartMeters,” we’re exposed to much more wireless radiation than our bodies can handle and stay healthy. Studies show the increase in autism, SIDS, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, child leukemia and other cancers match the increase in electromagnetic radiation (EMR) in our environments.

Physicist and electromagnetic radiation analyst, Dr. Neil Cherry, found EMR causes DNA breakages, chromosome aberrations, increased oncogene activity in cells, altered brain activity, altered blood pressure, and increased brain cancer at very low levels. The World Health Organization recently classified microwave radiation as a class 2 carcinogen.

Many people are aware of common sources of EMR, but few know of “SmartMeters.” This is a community issue, since the radius of the microwaves they emit is up to a mile.

Vera Fuchs at PSE (customercare@pse.com or 1-888-225-5773) is tracking concerns about SmartMeters but PSE and PUD are not informing customers or soliciting feedback. Please call PSE and PUD to add your name to the list of people who do not want wireless utility meters that send radiation through your home every five minutes, 24/7. Please, PCC, make a conscious choice to avoid QR codes, Wi-Fi or microwave ovens around the food in our stores.
— Sandra Storwick, Kirkland

Editor replies: Two-time Nobel Prize nominee in medicine Dr. Robert Becker says he has “no doubt … that … the greatest polluting element in the earth’s environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields.” Physicians at the American Academy of Environmental Medicine say “the medical literature raises credible questions about genetic and cellular effects, hormonal effects, male fertility, blood-brain barrier damage, and increased risk of certain types of cancers from RF or ELF levels similar to those emitted from SmartMeters.”

The Academy is calling for a moratorium on SmartMeters. At least 50 local governments in California oppose SmartMeters, citing complaints that they raise utility bills and compromise privacy. The escalating opposition has prompted California, Maine and Vermont to offer opt-out options.

Some PCC members are starting an organization to raise awareness on SmartMeters. To get involved, contact Sandra at emr.awareness.network@gmail.com or voice your concerns at commission meetings. PUD is working on the framework to roll out SmartMeters that monitor utility usage in Snohomish County homes and transmit the data via pulsed microwave bursts. Learn more from coverage of a California hearing at http://bit.ly/IRyDSM.

Fukushima fallout

Thanks for taking my call, it was good talking with you. Information regarding radiation fallout from Fukushima unfortunately is not good news for Seattle. If PCC has a philosophy to offer healthy, safe food, it will offer fruits and vegetables sourced from the southern hemisphere, such as Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

The two greatest dangers that exist for Seattle are breathing in re-suspended airborne fallout blown back into the air by lawnmowers, leaf blowers, street cleaners, cars and wind, and consuming contaminated foods, notably dairy, mushrooms, seafood and seaweed from the Pacific, and contaminated fruit and vegetables especially from Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia where nuclear fallout was the greatest. Thanks for giving it serious attention.
— Tim

Editor: Medical experts agree any increased exposure to radiation increases risk of cancer but they can’t know for sure what the risk is to individuals. Physicists at the University of Washington found airborne radioactive isotopes locally for weeks after the disaster but stopped monitoring air when levels were no longer detectable. We’re not aware of anyone testing anything but air or raindrops in Washington state – not groundwater, soil or foods.

Researchers at the Department of Nuclear Engineering, UC Berkeley, tested for radioactive isotopes in strawberries, spinach, kale and arugula (as well as soil and farm manure) in the months after the Fukushima meltdown. See the log of results at nuc.berkeley.edu/UCBAirSampling.

The Berkeley team continues to monitor cesium levels in milk, which are lower than a year ago but still detectable. We recommend reading “Questions and Feedback” at that site.

Also in this issue

Detoxing: Cleansing your body

Food is always better than supplements for avoiding toxins, but if you want a boost in preparing your diet for a cleanse, a variety of products and books at PCC may help.

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

It's looking to be a good summer for Northwest tree fruit, so get ready for all your summer favorites: peaches, nectarines, cherries and more! Healthy runs of troll-caught Chinook salmon are expected, as is a bumper harvest of Oregon pink shrimp.

Feds give salmon more water

The federal government recently acknowledged that salmon have a hard time swimming through concrete walls. It's too late for the native sockeye salmon population on the Elwah River — they're extinct — but the dozers are rolling.