Letters to the editor, May 2014

This article was originally published in May 2014

Thank you, PCC

Thank you for being uncompromising and protective of human health and well-being. You are the oasis in a desert of harm. Do you realize how rare PCC is?

— John L. Ralston

Scent-free shampoos

I found the article about healthy shampoo in the Sound Consumer (February 2014) very interesting and informative, and just read a letter to the editor in the March issue about essential oils. Similar to that consumer, I too am sensitive to many fragrances — including essential oils. I have found that my choices for hair products have diminished, rather than increased, at the Greenlake PCC store, where I shop regularly.

But this issue is bigger than me: I work at a fairly large office in downtown Seattle and we are at the beginning stages of creating a fragrance-free workplace. After a recent presentation about fragrances, I had numerous women ask me where I buy hair products (I have curly hair). I would love to be able to refer people to PCC but your decision to focus on toxicity (rather than toxicity and fragrance) leaves many of us with an empty shopping cart.
My goal for PCC is to have 50 percent of the consumer products on your shelf be fragrance-free. I hope you are interested in supporting consumer products that can be used in fragrance-free workplaces.

— Laurie Mann, PCC shopper since 1992 

PCC replies: We discontinued products that don’t meet standards of the Natural Products Association but we still stock several fragrance-free shampoos and conditioners from Alaffia, Hugo and Avalon Organics. Avalon Organics’ products also are NSF certified, a third-party certification that designates that organically grown ingredients are used.

Our buyers always look for fragrance-free products but the data shows they don’t sell as well as others. Next time you’re shopping at PCC, ask someone on staff to show you what’s available.

Staff say most of our fragrance-free customers with curly hair use coconut oil, argan oil or aloe vera gel as an extra conditioner.

Ethical animal protein

I’m looking to gather more information regarding PCC’s standards for humanely raised, free-range meat and poultry. Any insight into the animal’s lifestyle and routine would be appreciated.

Recently I have been struggling with an ethical dilemma on continuing to eat meat and poultry based on the cruelty and abnormal lifestyle that the animals typically encounter. So I’d love to hear how the local farmers that PCC contracts with allow their livestock to feed, exercise, etc. For example: Are the animals permitted plenty of space to wander (sometimes “free-range” for hens requires only a 3×3 box instead of a cage)?

Are the animals humanely slaughtered? Is the suffering minimal?

Thank you for your help in my quest to track down appropriate and ethical means of animal proteins. I really appreciate the mentality that PCC embodies and have been a loyal member since moving to the Pacific Northwest. I just want to ensure that every animal is treated with the utmost dignity and compassion that they deserve. 

— Laurie Gribschaw

PCC replies: All PCC meat and poultry is either range-grazed, free-range, or pastured. Different production methods account for the greatest differences between products.

Skagit River Valley Ranch is a certified organic ranch run by George and Eiko Vojkovich. They provide award-winning, 100-percent pasture-raised and pasture-finished beef, pork and chicken. We sell their beef and pork frozen at Edmonds and Issaquah. 
PCC brand 100-percent grass-fed beef is from ranches across the Northwest, including Washington, Idaho and Montana. The grass-fed claim allows for alfalfa, forbs and legumes in the diet, under USDA rules.

Country Natural Beef comes from ranchers across the West and Hawaii. It’s range-grazed, then “finished” in a feedlot for several months on rations of wheat, barley, cooked potatoes and alfalfa hay.

Pure Country Pork pigs at the Klingeman family farm in Ephrata, Wash., have abundant living space to move about and socialize. Sows farrow outside, never in crates. Pure Country Pork was the first meat producer in the country to be Non-GMO Project Verified.

Umpqua Valley Lamb is from several ranches in Oregon, raised and finished on year-round pasture.

None of our eggs come from hens in so-called “battery cages,” where up to 10 hens may be caged together in less than three square feet. Be clear that “cage-free” hens have no access outdoors. Only free-range and organic eggs are from hens that go outdoors. We also sell a nice assortment of pastured eggs.

All producers take care to ensure the least stressful, quickest slaughter. Cows, lambs and pigs are handled in a similar fashion. They’re kept in holding pens with drinking water and bedding, then funneled to a “knocking box” where a handler sends a bolt into the brain, rendering the animal instantly brain-dead. Where producers “process” their animals varies by location and perhaps in minor details.

Seafood radiation risk

There has been much misinformation regarding radiation risk from Fukushima. A recent scientific article (www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/05/30/1221834110) indicates:
“The additional dose from Fukushima radionuclides to humans consuming tainted Pacific Bluefin tuna (PBFT) in the United States was calculated to be 0.9 and 4.7 µSv for average consumers and subsistence fishermen, respectively. Such doses are comparable to, or less than, the dose all humans routinely obtain from naturally occurring radionuclides in many food items, medical treatments, air travel or other background sources.

— Curry Cunningham, via Facebook

PCC replies: Radioactive isotopes originating from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan in March 2011 were found in marine animals and migratory Pacific Bluefin tuna. This information caused public anxiety and concern, although Bluefin captured off California in August 2011 contained concentrations below naturally occurring radionuclides.

PCC does not carry Bluefin tuna because it’s very unsustainable. It’s true that other Pacific seafood — including wild Alaskan salmon — has not been found to contain dangerous levels of radioactive isotopes from Fukushima.

Gluten sensitivity and Roundup?

I was listening to the Thom Hartman program about the increase in the incidences of gluten sensitivity and of Celiac disease and the link to the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate). I was appalled to learn that farmers are spraying Roundup on wheat crops just before harvest because it desiccates the plant and it is more easily harvested. This procedure also is used on sugarcane. In regions where this is done, the workers harvesting sugarcane are dying of kidney failure at a much higher rate than normal. 

I looked at Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour that I have been using and it does not specify that it is organic. Is PCC aware of this? Are PCC wheat flours in bulk organic? Here are two articles on the subject: www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/r/2574 and www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/r/2575.

— Cindy Cole

PCC replies: We’re aware of Dr. Seneff’s work on glyphosate and gluten sensitivity and want to caution you in drawing any conclusions from his paper. As compelling as it is, it proves nothing. It does establish correlation. But correlation is not causation. Also, the researchers do not have backgrounds or expertise in natural sciences.

Bob’s Red Mill recently enrolled in the Non-GMO Project. But since the flour is not labeled organic, pesticides (including glyphosate) may have been used.

We sell numerous organic wheat flours (and spelt, barley and more flours) in our bulk department. Organic certification means no glyphosate was used, nor any other harmful herbicides, fungicides or insecticides.

Gluten-free camp

My daughter, Sabrina DeVos, is a Girl Scout and is working on earning her gold award. Her project is to start a gluten-free camp in the Finger Lakes region of New York. 

We would love to share this project so that she may be able to reach children that require a gluten-free diet and would like to attend a gluten-free weekend resident camp. This will allow them a weekend of not worrying about what they eat, being able to be with other children who also are gluten-free and just make new friends. It’s open for boys and girls ages 8 to 15 years old. To register or learn more, please visit her website: celiacstrong.weebly.com.

— Christina M. McGlynn

PCC replies: There also is a local gluten-free camp on Vashon Island August 4 through 9. See gluten.net/programs/social-programs/gig-kids/kids-camp.

Food sensitivities and preferences

A topic that would be of interest to me and perhaps others is how people are coping with choosing foods they eat these days due to our need to be careful of so many things: organic, genetically engineered ingredients, processed foods, sometimes gluten and allergies, artificial sweeteners or sugar. 

The question of what to do when we eat out either at restaurants or at a friend or family member’s home is important. How are people managing? 

Are they just not so careful when they eat at restaurants? Do they bring their own food when they visit, especially if their hosts do not cook with organic food? When on vacation, do they try to cook some of their own meals?
It used to be so easy but today there is a lot to consider.

— name withheld upon request 

PCC replies: Readers, how do you accommodate food sensitivities and special diets when not eating at home? Email editor@pccmarkets.com

Also in this issue

PCC to open 10th store

We are delighted to announce that our 10th store will be opening in the Greenlake neighborhood of Seattle on June 4. A few delicious features include a salad bar, smoothie and espresso bars, and our trademark deli. There also will be a classroom so we can offer more PCC Cooks cooking classes.

Annual Election

you're electing three board members and a new nominating committee.

Organic choices avoid pesticides

Supporting the organic supply chain is a key part of PCC's official mission. Why? The research keeps accumulating that pesticide exposure causes serious harm to our health and the environment.