Letters to the editor, December 2014

This article was originally published in December 2014

Healthier receipt paper

I was excited to read in the Sound Consumer that PCC switched the receipts to BPA-free. Having had cancer twice, this is a relief. I wish more stores would follow your example!— Chris

Climate change and Northwest agriculture

Great article in October’s Sound Consumer by Abra Bennett (“Climate change and Northwest agriculture”). It has an extremely important angle, which I think is overlooked easily here in the Seattle hub of western Washington, since most of us aren’t interacting on a regular basis with farmers in the eastern part of our beautiful state.I found the research and interviews enlightening.— Tom Hundley, Seattle 

I refuse to talk about simply “climate change,” but instead “Global Warming Crisis.” I suspect the carbon industry was instrumental in getting the UN to change the name of the crisis to “climate change,” to take the barbs and urgency out of it, and water it down. Your articles on the subject are most time-worthy. Thanks!

I think the real question is, what can we as individuals do about it? I’m driving an all-electric car when I can. We installed a photovoltaic array on our roof, so our electric vehicle is solar-powered. I have participated in 350 Seattle, etc.

I’m personally trying to figure out what my next step toward living lightly on the Earth is going to be. I’m very concerned what we are leaving for our great-grandchildren.— Chuck Hanna-Myrick, Bothell

Bottled water

Thanks to the person who commented on bottled water being sold in drought-stricken California and PCC’s informative response (Letters to the editor, September). It does strike me as unethical to divert badly needed water that could support the growing of food to plastic bottles, when quality tap water already is provided by governments for drinking and it’s free (i.e., tax payers already have paid for it). I’m so glad to hear PCC has eliminated single-serving plain bottled water. The filtered water the store offers in bulk from Custom Pure is nice, too. Of course, the cheapest water is what’s provided at the store drinking fountain, in the bathrooms, or at our own homes (again we’ve already paid for public water through taxes). 

What I would love to see is a drinking fountain at a PCC store that I’ve seen at various gyms in the city and at Rice University where you can fill your water bottle for free and there’s a counter that tells you how many bottles have been saved, and what number “bottle not bought” you are. For me, it’s a very direct way of saying, “I love what my municipality provides, I don’t need to purchase privatized water or plastic, and there’s nothing here to recycle.” Why sell or buy water to begin with when we’ve already paid for and have access to such a precious resource?— Caroline Sayre

PCC replies: Good news! We’ll soon be installing a bottle-filling station with a counter like the one you mention at our Fremont store. We’re also planning to install a combination drinking fountain/bottle filler at our Columbia City store, opening in 2015.

Coatings on produce

Recently, while washing fruit in a bowl, I noticed that the water looked almost oily. My immediate assumption was that I was seeing wax. After doing some research online, I discovered that most organic produce is handled by processors that handle organic and non-organic produce. Worse, the organic produce might very well have any number of various waxes, coatings, or just about any other coating. It wasn’t clear in my research if there are any regulations regarding these coatings.I was wondering if you have any internal guidelines about (not!) accepting produce with certain coatings. Also, I was wondering if there are any guidelines at organic certifiers such as Oregon Tilth.— Cliff Binstock

PCC replies: Most organic produce is not waxed. At PCC, organic citrus fruits and organic cucumbers are the exceptions. Sometimes, in the winter, a coat of wax may be applied as a protective barrier against moisture loss and dehydration.Wax for conventional produce contains petroleum-derived ingredients and often has preservatives or fungicides in it.

Wax for organic produce cannot be synthetic and cannot have petroleum-based ingredients, nor can it contain preservatives or fungicides. Wood resin (collected from the stumps of pine trees) and carnauba (extracted from palm leaves) are allowed and they may be combined with vegetable oil, vegetable-based fatty acids, ethyl alcohol and water.

PCC has no additional policy but keep in mind 95 percent of the produce we sell is organic, so it’s a limited issue for organic citrus and cukes, as above. Citrus actually produces a wax coating naturally, but, once picked, citrus undergoes thorough cleaning, which can damage or destroy its natural wax covering. If citrus is to be shipped long distance, an insufficient natural wax coating might mean the fruit reaches its destination in less than optimal condition, so additional wax often is applied.

PCC sponsorship

We just signed up for the Green Lake Gobble 10K and saw PCC was a sponsor! Thank you!We love shopping at PCC and are so grateful that you are sponsoring an event where we can pursue our fitness goals and help less fortunate members of our community have food and shelter over the holidays.Thanks again, PCC. You are a great neighbor.— The Druliner family, Wallingford

Canola oil

Thank you for the good article on canola oil (April). Finally, someone made the issue clear.I have a Lodge cast iron pan that I need to cure. All of my oils are expensive, good oils. I thought that I would go cheap and bought Wesson oil and noticed that it is canola oil. Now I am thinking that it may not be a good idea to cure my pan with it. What do you think?— Suzanne

PCC Nutrition Educator Nick Rose replies: You are correct that Wesson oil is canola and, like anything labeled “vegetable oil,” it is almost certainly genetically engineered, solvent-extracted and heat-treated. We suggest you return that oil (if possible) and use one of your good oils instead to treat your iron skillet. Use a neutral-tasting, high-heat oil, such as grapeseed oil, high-oleic sunflower or safflower, or organic canola oil to treat your skillet — but don’t use your olive oil, as it doesn’t tolerate the repeated exposures to heat. For more information about cooking oils and their heat tolerances, see our cooking oils guide: pccnaturalmarkets.com/guides/tips_cooking_oils.html.

Storing flax seeds

I’ve been buying Bob’s Red Mill Organic Golden Flaxseed Meal for a long time now, having two heaping tablespoons mixed with water every morning. I keep the bag in the freezer. I mentioned this to friends, and they told me that by buying the flaxseed already ground I am losing some of the beneficial oils and that I should grind it myself (probably every day, just what I need) in order to reap all the benefits. Can you address this? It doesn’t make sense to me that any significant amount of oils would be lost in the grinding process and I would like the maximum benefit from the flaxseed.— Kathy Frank

PCC replies: The concern with using pre-ground flaxseed is not that it will lose nutrients; the concern is that the oils (omega-3s) may become oxidized from exposure to air, light and heat. To prevent this, continue storing the ground flax in the fridge or freezer, and keep it away from the stove. Also, try to use it up within three to four months. If you’re not able to finish the package within six months, then yes, you should consider buying whole seeds and grinding them yourself. When the whole seeds are intact, the oils are not susceptible to oxidation.

Correction: Organic ciders

The November Sound Consumer printed a letter asking about hard ciders at PCC. We mistakenly printed that Finnriver Farm & Cidery produces certified organic ciders, when in fact the ciders aren’t certified organic. To be clear, Finnriver is a certified organic farm and orchard. The fruit it grows is certified organic, and almost all the fruit it sources from elsewhere is certified organic.“The only reason an ingredient isn’t certified organic is if we have difficulty sourcing it,” says Crystie Kisler, co-owner of Finnriver. For example, Kisler says this year’s fresh hops were “Salmon-Safe” but not organic due to crop failure. Black currants have been challenging to source organically, but Finnriver recently found an organic source. “Our mission at Finnriver is deeply rooted in sustainability and a profound concern for the state of the conventional agriculture system,” Kisler says. “We’re deeply involved with the sustainable ag movement through relationships with our Land Trust, the Salmon Coalition, Organic Seed Alliance, WSU and other partners. Finnriver has been a leader in creating a business model that reflects our values.”

Also in this issue

Food fads: how they differ from meaningful shifts in food culture

Consumers are maturing from obsessions with bacon and kale to a love of all sorts of dishes and cuisines, along with broader interests in wellness, organic agriculture, and what makes food taste good.

Organic dairy shortage

Shoppers for organic butter, cream and yogurt are facing higher prices or, worse, empty shelves as we head into the holidays. If we want a sustainable supply, we're going to have to put our money where our values are and pay farmers enough to stay in business.