Letters to the editor, July 2012

This article was originally published in July 2012

Customer service

In my 32 years as a PCC member, it’s been my experience that your clerks and baggers make few errors. But occasionally — today, for example — I shopped for groceries, specifically items to try a new recipe. After my bus ride home (I am carless-in-Seattle), I began the prep work only to discover that a crucial element — the avocado!!! ­— hadn’t made it into my backpack.

In somewhat high dudgeon I called PCC View Ridge. Deb answered and asked if she could help. I told her that, frankly, I was just calling to complain and explained the situation. She apologized sincerely and I told her it was particularly annoying as I couldn’t just hop in a car and return to the store.

Deb said she completely understood my frustration and that she would drive an avocado over to me. “Surely not,” I said, “that is simply above and beyond…” But she insisted and asked for my address. About 15 minutes later she arrived with not one, but two avocados. One perfectly ripe for my recipe and one that will ripen in a day or two.

I can think of no other store whose employees would deliver (literally) such impressive, compassionate service. Deb, thank you once again for your kindness. The dish came out beautifully!
— Julia Helen Tracy, Seattle

Healthier body care

Thank you for the Healthier body care article in your May [2012] issue. I found it very useful and I changed some of my brands as a result of info in the article.
— Julia Mitchell

Fukushima radioactivity

After the news regarding detection of cesium in tuna, I planned to take it off my list for a while. Where is PCC obtaining tuna from and how can we feel comfortable with the source?
— Gwen Nagano


I have been trying to find out safety levels for fish. I’m really interested and concerned about the levels of radiation due to Fukushima after discovering this website, fairewinds.org/content/hot-particles-and-measurement-radioactivity, that talks about concern for marine life. My question: Is PCC testing any fish for radiation? I definitely don’t trust the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to monitor this. Your thoughts?
— Nikki Norberg

PCC replies: Researchers recently found radioactive isotopes that match the Fukushima fallout in bluefin tuna caught on the West Coast last summer. But the lead author says the amount of cesium in the bluefin “didn’t come close to exceeding safety limits,” that the amount per gram of fish is lower than the naturally occurring radioactive potassium found in a banana.

There’s little information about radiation levels in other species of tuna or other fish, but the species we carry are younger and smaller than giant bluefin so they bioaccumulate fewer toxins.

In fresh seafood, we sell pole-caught yellowfin tuna and albacore from Hawaii, where the state reportedly is testing fish for radiation and has found only trace amounts that occur naturally, not caused by the nuclear disaster.

The jarred and canned pole-caught, local albacore on the shelf now at PCC reportedly were nowhere near Japan at the time of the nuclear disaster. They were hundreds if not thousands of miles away at a different place in their migration. Wild Planet says it tested all fish it purchased and processed after the disaster and all the tuna it has canned since last March are 250 to 600 times lower than the FDA level of concern.

The bluefin study may encourage testing of albacore when they land on the West Coast this summer because albacore may have looped through areas near Japan in the time since the disaster on another leg of their migration. We’re asking our vendors if they plan to test.

Regarding Alaskan salmon and halibut, a professor of marine sciences and geology at Rutgers University, Paul Falkowski, told the New York Times last year that in the worst-case scenario, an ocean current that travels from Japan across the Pacific to Alaska could carry radiation to Alaska fisheries months after the nuclear meltdown, although he and other experts considered it highly unlikely.


I was dismayed but not surprised that Tom Ballard’s June article on detoxification did not address the Fukushima radiation fallout, which Tim’s Letter to the Editor did. I was in the process of inquiring about your radiation testing and sourcing for spirulina, miso soup, shitake mushrooms, brown rice, green tea and other radiation detoxification foods.

Regarding the fallout over the Pacific and the West Coast, speakers such as Helen Caldicott, Arnie and Maggie Gunderson, Bob Avery, Thomm Hartmann, Kevin Kamps, Hazel Porcellas, Dr. Mercola, Micho Kako, Paul Mason, Marc Sircus, Jeanette Sherman and Jennifer Ashton; as well as ProtectionFromRadiation.net, Alternet, New York Academy of Sciences, European Committee on Radiation Rise, NuclearFoodChain, Energy News Website, Vosica Institute for Holistic Studies, Nuclear Information and Resource Services, Natural News Website, Beyond Nuclear, Fukushima311 Watchdogs and HeartHealth, all state unequivocally that plutonium in the rains’ fallout is concentrated in Pacific sea life and local food. Indeed an Oregon organic farm ceased producing and selling produce due to tested dangerous levels of radiation.

Dr. Caldicott stated, “This is the greatest public health hazard the world has ever seen.” I am a vegan locavore but as heretical as this sounds, I, like Tim, wonder if, for the safety of our families and progeny, radiation-free fruits and leafy foods need to be sourced from the southern hemisphere. For levity I recommend anti-nuclear environmentalist Joanne Macy’s “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy.”
— Michelle Jacobsen, Seattle

PCC replies: Good citations, but few if any offer hard data defining risks. We began addressing land-based foods in June’s “Letters” noting 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 Fukushima. 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. The “Questions and Feedback” at that site are helpful. We certainly wish there were more data.

GMO labeling

I imagine anyone reading this knows Monsanto’s former VP, Michael Taylor, is our Deputy Commissioner for Food at the Food and Drug Administration. He’s only one of many former biotech and pharmaceutical employees who have risen to the bureaucratic arena — a very serious matter.

It should be apparent that petition efforts are likely to be worthless unless they get air time, which likely never will happen. Nearly futile are the small demonstrations we’ve organized and attended. Politicians largely have no interest in taking a stand, despite the unnumbered calls, emails and faxes voicing our concerns.

We need to take a lesson from the California ballot initiative campaign for genetically modified organisms (GMO) labeling. The fantastic organization and untiring work of those individuals is deeply inspiring and we need to imitate their determination. But while this work is commendable, it can be shot down by the judicial system, regardless of the will of the people.

My suggestion is to no longer depend solely upon social networking and activities of the past, but to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of door-to-door literature campaigns to educate our neighbors.

Getting enough Americans to say no to GMOs in the supermarket is the surest way to usher out the GMO era. Please challenge our members to sacrifice their time and dollars to obtain success over the stealth in the marketplace.
— William Neu

Paleo shopping

Vegetarians and vegans have a hard time meeting certain nutritional needs without continuing, concerted effort. What’s not mentioned is that “plant-based diets” naturally drift toward “carbohydrate-based diets” packed full of grains, legumes and sugars that put our bodies in a hyper-insulemic state. To say “animal fats are bad” may appeal to an aesthetic sense (plant-based is “light” or “clean”) but such is not the case. The Inuit lived on zero plant foods.

During my last visit to PCC, I had a good look at the dairy/egg case, salivated at the cheeses, and breezed through the aisles with processed, grain- and legume-laden and sugary items. I had high hopes for bulk but instead found grains, every conceivable legume, sugary items, a nut grinder offering only peanut butter, and only a few Primal-worthy items: plain coconut, chia and (potentially) dark chocolate chips. I would have liked to find dried berries and fruits, raw nuts of all types, and colorful tuber-based products without polyunsaturated fats. Produce and meat are fantastic. I took home many veggies and fruits, whole chickens, and two Paleo-suitable flours — coconut and almond.

I find the vegetarian/vegan viewpoint to be grounded in guilt (aka “concern”) about impact on animals and the earth. Buying from animal producers who keep humane practices sends a market signal to continue. Vegetarians and vegans fail to support humane and environmental producers of animal-based products, leaving only the conventional producers in business.
— A. Butler, Bellevue

Predator-friendly meat?

As a frequent PCC shopper who follows a vegan diet, I have a different take on the “predator-friendly” logic expressed in this article. There is concern expressed for the harm to wildlife by livestock grazing on public lands, whereas my concern would be for the entire ecosystem, public or private. Why worry only about a certain group of predators?

All land, public or private, could be put to better use by not consuming animal products in the first place. If people followed a vegan diet, there would not be issues concerning grass-fed, free-range, and predator protection. Consuming meat makes you the “ultimate” predator.
— Jim Borgogno, Kirkland

PCC replies: Sustainable agriculture must involve animals to complete the nutrient cycle and sustain soil health and the plants we eat. The problem is monocropping of any kind — just crops or just animals. The farmer-author Wendell Berry notes that when we took animals off farms and put them in feedlots, we created two new problems: a fertility problem on the farm and a pollution problem from the feedlot.

A Washington State University project called “Beefing Up the Palouse” confirmed “planned grazing,” which mimics natural herd migrations and restores soil health more effectively than leaving it fallow. (See: Beefing up the Palouse, Aug. 2009, Sound Consumer.)

Also in this issue

Favorite ice creams

So many flavors, so little time — the ice cream aisle at PCC is overwhelming, we know. It's an eternal debate: should you choose cool, pure vanilla or classic chocolate? Or, is it time to go for something outrageous?

News bites, July 2012

High fructose corn syrup, High-fructose diet affects brain, FDA to reconsider livestock antibiotics, and more

Ranking U.S. grocers on seafood sustainability

2012 is forecast by many to be a year of great change and, from an ocean conservationist's perspective, this comes not a moment too soon. Even now, in spite of overwhelming evidence and strong warnings from the scientific community, we continue to plunder our seas at an astonishing rate.