Letters to the editor, July 2013

This article was originally published in July 2013

Fair labor chocolate

This is a bit belated but I wanted to thank PCC for your decision to stock and use only fair-trade chocolate. I’ve always liked PCC but with this decision you have won my loyalty.

I decided a few years ago I would eat only fair-trade chocolate. This means virtually all chocolate-flavored baked goods and other prepared foods are off-limits unless they were made in our own kitchen. When I graduated from college, we bought a vanilla vegan cake from PCC to celebrate. I am so excited to think that next time I could buy the chocolate cake and enjoy it with a clean conscience!

Thank you for being a leader on this important issue. I’ll repeat, you have won my loyalty!
— Krysta Yousoufian

PCC replies: PCC announced in April we will sell only chocolate candy, cocoa powders and house-made bakery items with chocolate from vendors who assure child slave labor is prohibited and International Labor Organization standards are met. Read the news release »

Eden Foods lawsuit

I’ve noticed over time that PCC always seems to take reasonable and thoughtful stances on public policy issues, in particular when they relate to products and suppliers. I imagine it is difficult when members and customers are demanding action. Your response to the Eden Foods lawsuit is more of the same thoughtfulness, and I thank you for it.
— Brad Ward

Deli oils

I noticed a lot of your prepared/deli foods contain processed industrial seed oils in them, such as canola/rapeseed, sunflower, safflower oil, etc., which contain a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that is unhealthy and contributes to systemic inflammation.

I love your stores, the folks who work there, the atmosphere, and everything you carry in it …. except for the items containing the unhealthy oils. It really is disappointing as I rely on your prepared foods/deli items multiple times a week for healthy, quick food but the selection is extremely limited for someone trying to avoid these types of oils (as everyone should be).

I would highly recommend replacing these oils with healthier cold-pressed oils, such as coconut oil, olive oil, walnut oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado oil, etc. I think that by removing these oils, you could appeal to more people and it would be in line with your mission of “preserving high-quality foods.”
— Morgan Chavez

PCC replies: As you note, most sunflower and safflower oils are composed primarily of omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote inflammation when consumed in excess. However, all the sunflower and safflower oils for sale at PCC (and used in our delis) are high-oleic varieties, meaning they contain very low amounts of omega-6 fats. Oleic acid is the primary fatty acid found in olive oil, and does not contribute to inflammation like omega-6 fats.

There are two reasons we do not use 100-percent olive oil in our delis. First, olive oil congeals (turns solid) when refrigerated and makes our deli salads much less appealing when they are in the cold deli case. Second, olive oil is not a good “cooking” oil, so we prefer to cook (soups, meats, roasted veggies, etc.) with a high-oleic safflower oil. Using a blend of olive and high-oleic safflower oils in our deli items ensures the majority of fats come from oleic acid, the “heart-healthy,” monounsaturated, non-inflammatory fat present in olive oil.

We don’t use canola oil in any items produced in our delis, but we do use a non-GMO canola mayonnaise for non-vegan salads. All canola oil sold at PCC is either organic or non-GMO verified.

For more information on all of the oils we offer at PCC, see our cooking oils guide.

Voting yes on I-522

I’m a PCC member of long standing currently live in Montana. How can I vote on the Yes on 522 issue remotely from Missoula? Since the issue is national, I would like to vote online if I could.
— Joel Shechter, Missoula, Mont.

PCC replies: If you still are a registered Washington state voter, you can vote by absentee ballot. There’s no online voting, anywhere.

Antibiotics in apples and pears

I just read that last August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quietly released this ruling:

“The National Organic Program published a final rule today that … effective August 3, the allowance for the use of tetracycline in organic apple and pear production will be extended until Oct. 21, 2014, providing two years for the development of alternatives for fire blight control.”

I eat organic meat and dairy specifically to avoid antibiotics in my food. Now I have to consider the possibility of unwanted antibiotics on my fruit. Are the apples sold at PCC treated with antibiotics?

I love PCC and feel very fortunate to have such a committed and diligent grocer in my neighborhood. The fact that you label organic and non-GMO foods is priceless to me.
— Dawn Murin, Seattle

PCC replies: You’re right! The National Organic Standards Board voted this spring against any further extensions for use of tetracycline sprays in apple or pear production after 2014.

Neither of our two primary apple growers use any tetracycline. One has used it three times over the past five years for their Bosc pear crop. It is a somewhat complex story, so you may want to read the April 2103 Sound Consumer story Antibiotics for organic apples and pears?, and our comments to the National Organic Standards Board.

GE produce

I recently read a 2012 article online that stated genetically engineered (GE) produce could be identified by its coding. The article stated that if the four-digit code was preceded by an “8,” that the food was GE. Is this still correct? If the code is preceded by a “9,” does that signify organic? Thank you.
— Patti Good

Editor: This is true, theoretically, but you’ll never see it. The July 2012 Produce PLU Codes User’s Guide prepared by the International Federation for Produce Standards specifies a “9” identifies organic produce and an “8” indicates GE produce.

But no GE produce is labeled this way. Producers of GE sweet corn, papaya, zucchini or yellow crookneck squash are not required to identify their products as GE, so they don’t!

Interestingly, the GE Flavr Savr tomato voluntarily was labeled with the “8” back in 1993 … and it was a flop with consumers.

Maca root powder

I just want to mention how much I love all the Wilderness Poets brand products I’ve purchased at your store. The organic maca root powder, in particular, is so delicious. I have read about the health benefits of maca over the years (hormone regulation, for one) and have seen it sold in stores in capsule form. This led me to believe it must be a somewhat nasty-tasting product if people were opting to add it to their diets via a pill. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I tasted Wilderness Poets maca — it is so delicious, I can’t believe someone would want to ingest it without tasting it! It would be wonderful in baked goods, smoothies, etc.

Because I liked the maca so much, I tried some of Wilderness Poets’ other products (the pistachio butter and pecan butter are wonderful) but had to order some online as I couldn’t find them at the West Seattle PCC. I found out the full line of nut butters is carried at the Issaquah and Edmonds PCCs and I’d like to make a request to have them carried at other stores as well. It seems like a great company and I love that it’s based in Amboy, Wash.

Another product I fell in love with is the wild-crafted vanilla powder. The flavor and scent are crazy delicious! I hope you might carry this as well.
Thank you for introducing me to so many wonderful companies and products — you guys are the best!
— Leigh Lennox

Editor: All stores carry at least some Wilderness Poets products and our buyers are working on bringing in more.

Eliminating plastic and paper

I just recently pulled it together to avoid using any plastic or paper bags. I bring jars for all of my bulk food and decided not to use any plastic on my veggies. I now have no paper or plastic bags in my house, which is great, but I also need some help figuring out what to do with compost, garbage, keeping veggies fresh, etc.

I have noticed my veggies seem a bit more limp without the plastic bags. For picking up dog poop, I’m assuming buying compostable poop bags is my best choice but please do let me know if there are other options.

For compost I used to use a paper bag in the freezer until it was full, then put it in the yard waste basket frozen before pickup. Without the paper bags and no home compost, what is the next best solution? Just putting the food waste into the yard bin seems like it will cause smell, animal attraction and water waste to clean it.
— Name withhold upon request

PCC replies: Keeping produce fresh without storing it in plastic depends on the vegetable. Most greens can be kept in an airtight container with a damp cloth to regulate moisture and keep them from drying out. For root vegetables, such as beets or turnips, cut the tops off for braising. Leaving the tops on for days will draw moisture from the root, making them less firm. Peppers and cukes will stay fresh for days by storing them in the crisper drawer without washing until you’re ready to eat them.

You may wish to read this article about doing away with garbage bags: Garbage: Rethinking the need for bags. The author found a solution that works for her household: she just washes her garbage can a bit more often. Regarding dog poop, we don’t have anything better to recommend than compostable bags.

Great service

This is a thank-you note to the staff at Edmonds and Greenlake. Over the past four months I have been recovering from an injury.

From the beginning your staff were amazingly helpful, setting me up with a scooter and accompanying me as I shopped. As I became more mobile, they were patient as I would gather up my items in one area of the store and then ask a staff member to bring my purchases to the register. I live and work near these two stores, but I’m sure I would have gotten the same service at any PCC. Thank you for helping to make a difficult time a little easier.
— Zoe Myers

Also in this issue

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

The cherry crop may be smaller this year, while chickpea plantings are booming due to the growing popularity of hummus. More news: the nation's aquifers are shrinking, and the U.S. has lifted a ban on many Italian cured meats.

News bites, July 2013

Berries for brain health, Edmonds sustainable ag grant, Coffee rust threat, and more

Farmers and food artisans think beyond the bank

It used to be that if you wanted to raise money to start or expand a business, your first stop was the bank. That's no longer true for a growing number of entrepreneurs, including a handful of local farmers and food artisans.