Letters to the editor, January 2015

This article was originally published in January 2015

Healthful makeup at PCC

I want to thank you for some of the makeup brands on your shelves and pass along some information. I hadn’t realized how many unnecessary ingredients there are in even really good brands of makeup until noticing my first Gabriel eye shadow — a revelation. It looks like natural shadow, like I’m wearing no makeup but have hauntingly contoured eyes.

I thought the secret was the new, improved brushes but tried applying with my little finger and that creates another nice effect. I think these products are worth featuring. I’ve noticed there is growing interest online, especially among those who are very sensitive to chemicals.

I learned there is an important health reason to avoid the particles in mainstream brands of eyeshadow, as a person with lung damage from a dive for my beloved Greenpeace in 1985. I’ve been on oxygen for seven years now.

It seems there are nanoparticles in the minerals and other ingredients used in modern cosmetics: particles that easily travel right through skin and are breathed into lungs. Companies themselves may not know this. This is the advantage in buying from companies who prioritize issues like this.

Just thought I’d share this with PCC shoppers. Thanks!
— Vivia Boe, Vested and cruelty-free and
veg with your help since 1977

PCC replies: We also are concerned about the advent of nanoparticles in body care products, foods and packaging. Without labeling, it’s virtually impossible to know what is or isn’t.

In addition to Gabriel, other cosmetic brands at PCC that state they’re free of nanoparticles include ZuZu Luxe, Mineral Fusion and Dr. Hauschka. Lavera and Badger say their sunscreens are non-nano. For more information, see the sidebar at pccnaturalmarkets.com/r/3016.

Driscoll’s berry boycott

I’m writing this email because it has been brought to my attention that you sell berries from Sakuma Brothers Farms under the name Driscoll’s strawberries and blackberries. As you may or may not be aware, the farmworkers for this company have been mistreated on many different levels. A Google search will provide you with as much information as you care to read about this topic.

I am and have been a long-time customer of PCC and always have admired your business model and socially responsible practices. The farmworkers, as well as myself, would appreciate PCC boycotting all Sakuma Brothers Farm products until this company decides to do the right thing.

I appreciate the time you have taken to read this email.
— Kevin Cook

PCC replies: PCC is very aware of the mistreatment of farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in the Skagit Valley. We have made sure we do not sell any berries picked at the Sakuma farm. An association of farmworkers who work at the Sakuma farm has asked us to boycott the entire Driscoll’s brand because Driscoll’s buys berries from Sakuma (and hundreds of other growers).

We very much want the farmworkers to have fair working and living conditions. Their call for an indirect boycott has prompted us to talk with the parties in our supply chain and other values-oriented businesses to bring about the negotiations sought by the farmworkers. At press time in mid-December, we had not yet taken a position on the indirect boycott.

BPA in food packaging

I was avoiding canned foods because of bisphenol A (BPA) in can liners but recently started purchasing some that state the can lining is “BPA-free.” The cans also have additional fine print, however, which leaves me wondering.

On a can stating “BPA-free liner,” the fine print states, “Can liner not derived from BPA.” On a can stating “Non-BPA lining,” the fine print states, “Can lining produced without the intentional addition of BPA.”

Can you interpret these for me? Also, I’ve been wondering if the BPA merely has been replaced with another ingredient that may be harmful, and whether canned foods still should be avoided.
— Tammy Brandt

PCC replies: Companies that removed (or never used) BPA in can linings may want to protect themselves in case testing might find trace amounts of BPA. BPA has become prevalent in the environment, even if not intentionally added.

To answer whether BPA has been replaced in some products by another chemical, yes. Scientists have found many “BPA-free” products still emit estrogenic properties. BPS, for instance, is a common BPA substitute but appears to have similar estrogenic properties. Other plastics rely on hormone-disrupting phthalates to make plastics pliable and soft.

B vitamins

During our usual grocery shop at Redmond PCC, we noticed that multivitamin products say they are 100-percent vegetarian. Your tempeh product brochure says that vitamin B-12 is “a nutrient available only from animal sources.”

Will you please help us with understanding how multivitamin products can be 100-percent vegetarian when they include vitamin B-12?
— Jonathan and Maya

PCC replies: You have a good eye, noticing this apparent inconsistency. Both of these statements are correct, however. Here’s why.

B-12 is available only from animal sources. But only bacteria can synthesize B-12. The B-12 in meat is produced by bacteria living in the animals.

Supplement manufacturers use bacteria, not animal products, to synthesize vitamin B-12. So B-12 supplements are vegan, unless they have additional ingredients added.

FYI, it can take up to five years to develop a B-12 deficiency. So, if you become vegan it’s possible your stored B-12 can get you through a few years, even though you are not consuming any of this essential nutrient.

MSG and amino acids

What is the deal with amino acids? For example, Bragg Liquid Aminos. I have heard it is highly processed and almost like MSG.

What do they make it from and how do they get it so salty without adding salt?
— Rachel N.

PCC replies: Bragg Liquid Aminos is a non-fermented soy product made from soybeans, like soy sauce and tamari. But unlike soy sauce and tamari, Bragg Liquid Aminos is not fermented. Instead, the soybeans are hydrolyzed, a process that breaks down proteins into isolated amino acids. Hydrolyzed proteins contain some “free” (unbound) glutamate, since glutamate is a byproduct of hydrolysis. So while Bragg Liquid Aminos does not contain any added MSG, as a hydrolyzed protein product it does contain some free glutamate.

Bragg’s says the salty taste comes from the soybeans. There is no salt added of any kind. The naturally occurring sodium is approximately 160 mg per 1⁄2 teaspoon.

Olive oil fraud

I recently read information about the questionable quality of extra virgin olive oil sold in the United States. Can you tell me about the controversy?
— Cindy S.

PCC replies: The olive oil industry is infamous for fraud. One concern is that Italian olive oil actually may not be from Italian olives, only olives pressed in Italy. Another concern is that companies add lower-priced, lower-grade oils and artificial coloring to extra virgin olive oil, before passing the adulterated substance into the supply chain. As much as 50 percent of the olive oil sold in the United States is adulterated, according to the book “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.” For tips on identifying authentic oil, see www.truthinoliveoil.com/great-oil/how-to-buy-great-olive-oil.

Other commonly adulterated foods include milk, orange juice, coffee, apple juice and saffron.

Olive oil from Palestine

I was shocked and dismayed that you sell olive oil from Palestine. You may be unaware that Palestine is a terrorist state run by Hamas, elected by the people and the PLO.

I hope you reconsider selling anything from a terrorist country. I have told friends about this and they, too, were shocked.
— name withheld

PCC replies: It’s not within the scope of our mission to take a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Be aware that PCC also has been asked to stop carrying products from Israel.

The olive oil at issue is from Equal Exchange and is sourced from two olive grower co-ops in Palestine’s West Bank: Al Zawyeh Agricultural Co-operative and Mis-ha Co-operative for Organic Production and Livestock. Equal Exchange has a direct relationship with the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), a nonprofit, non-governmental organization in the West Bank that’s a member of the World Fair Trade Association. PARC helps olive farmers establish infrastructure and farming techniques to compete in the export market. It supports women’s economic empowerment through projects, such as a couscous cooperative, and improves soil and sustainable growing practices. Equal Exchange chose Palestine to help farmers with few options stay on the land and earn an independent living.

Gift cards at registers

I just want to share my extreme disappointment in seeing the gift card display at your West Seattle location today.

There are gift cards to businesses that are in direct contradiction to the very values that PCC stands for … really disappointing. Feels like PCC sold out to big business.
— Kalyn

PCC replies: We understand your point of view. Most stores offer gift cards as a convenience, so shoppers don’t have to go elsewhere if they want to buy them.

Also in this issue

GE Drought-tolerant corn?

Is Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn really more “drought tolerant” than traditional corn? And can GE crops really feed Africa?

Your co-op community, January 2015

Food bank packaging work parties, PCC Community Grant, Feeding your immune system, and more

Rice advisory

Consumer Reports scientists have released new guidelines to minimize exposure to arsenic in rice foods. The guidelines are particularly significant for pregnant and nursing women, and children.