Letters to the editor, September 2015

This article was originally published in September 2015

PCC home delivery

I was dismayed to read of a member’s disappointment concerning PCC’s plans for online shopping and delivery. Though he makes some good points, he is overlooking the special needs of frail elderly, disabled and/or homebound members of the community who would truly benefit from this expansion of service. As a longtime member of PCC who is presently a homebound, 24/7 caregiver for my nearly 100-year-old mother, I for one was delighted to learn of this potential option.

— Elizabeth

I read the letter in the August Sound Consumer from a member who was upset that PCC will be offering an online shopping and delivery option. I, for one, am a very longtime co-op member who’s delighted to hear PCC has taken (or will be taking) this service step.

Four years ago I got a little transportation reality check when I was housebound for almost two months with a fractured ankle that took its time healing. Friends went to PCC for me on occasion but I was forced to use Amazon (boo! I have not purchased anything from Amazon since!) for my weekly provisions.

It made me think about what I’ll do, living alone, when I am older and/or again unable to drive or walk to a bus. I wish there was a PCC within walking distance of me but I must drive or bus to get to either the Fremont PCC or the Aurora PCC from my neighborhood.

Some people do not — or no longer can — drive and Seattle isn’t a very easy town to bus in if you’re elderly and living too far from useful bus stops.

I commend you for the decision to expand your services like this!

— S. Babayan

PCC replies: We plan to launch delivery this fall.

PCC Advocates e-newsletter

I previously sent a request to Rep. Suzan DelBene to vote NO on the DARK Act and, after receiving the PCC Advocates email, I contacted her office again.

Thank you for championing such great causes. It’s one of the reasons our family is happy to be PCC members.

— Julie Maxwell

PCC note: Thank you, Julie, for participating and taking action through PCC Advocates. It’s our opt-in email newsletter that makes it easy for shoppers to take action for more healthful, sustainable food.

We asked shoppers in July to urge their House Representatives to vote no on HR 1599, dubbed “Deny Americans the Right to Know [DARK] Act.” (See page 1 for more on the DARK Act’s implications.)

If you’d like to participate in PCC Advocates, opt in by visiting pccmarkets.com/enews. We promise to send email only when it’s really important!

“Natural” flavors

As a PCC member, I ask that PCC consider pressuring so-called “natural” food companies to exclude any flavoring from their products.

I avoid products that contain any flavoring and am baffled how flavoring can be included in organic foods. Why does organic juice have to taste “juicier?” The obvious answer is that it saves companies money to throw in flavoring rather than higher-quality ingredients and maybe consumers’ deformed palates have something to do with it.

See this link from the Center for Public Integrity on the lack of any regulation of food flavoring: “Food flavor safety system a ‘black box’“.

— Eric Dee

PCC replies: We agree the term “natural flavoring” is problematic, for all the reasons explained by one of our favorite Sound Consumer articles, “The flavor industry” (August 2010). “Natural” and “artificial” flavors actually are distinguished more by how the flavor is made than by what it actually contains. Natural and artificial flavors sometimes contain exactly the same chemicals, produced through different processes.

Unfortunately, “natural flavorings” currently is used so pervasively and covers so many different ingredients that we are not able to avoid carrying products with them. Natural flavors can hide many different ingredients and there also are legally proprietary seasoning blends. It’s not easy to know what is in all flavorings; we do our best to screen what we can.

PCC’s animal welfare standards

Thank you for the excellent and comprehensive article in the Sound Consumer on the PCC standards for animal welfare. This is an important reason our family is a member and why we shop at PCC.

— Paula Crockett and Martin Gibbins

I just read this month’s article about animal welfare. Nice piece! Just had a couple questions/comments:

1) The “No Cages” section at the beginning sounded all well and good, until I saw the line that “Cage-free means no cages; it does not mean hens have access outdoors.” I think you kind of buried the lead on this. If they don’t go outdoors, are they not effectively “caged” — perhaps in something larger than an 8×11 sheet of paper, but they still are trapped indoors. When one hears “cage-free” or “no cages,” the inference is they aren’t trapped inside.

I’ve seen the film Food, Inc. and the huge (and disgusting) factory chicken pens, where there are so many birds packed in they can hardly move. If this meets the definition of “no cages” then that claim really has no merit and you should make that clear! Or are you actually saying that eggs sold at PCC from chickens in those sorts of conditions actually would meet your standard?

2) You mention a number of brands in the article, but where does PCC-branded milk land? Or Country Natural beef?

— Chris Hubbard

PCC replies: The conditions you saw in Food, Inc. are what we don’t want to allow, ever. Caged hens cannot spread their wings and are denied other natural behaviors, such as nesting, perching and dust bathing. PCC does not allow caged hens.

The article called out “cage-free” eggs as an exception because they are just that, an exception to our standard belief that animals should have plenty of time outdoors.

Stiebrs’ cage-free hens roam in barns where they can perch, preen, socialize and nest, although they do not go outdoors. Wilcox’s cage-free eggs are free to perch, preen and socialize in aviaries with some outside access — although, to Wilcox’s credit, the aviary system is so new, Wilcox is assessing the ease of access without (or before) making any claim. (Wilcox also sells eggs from free-range hens that live in barns with doors to large, vegetated outdoor runs.)

Our grocery buyers’ goal is to keep building the market so we could sell eggs only from hens allowed outdoors, but we aren’t there yet. There simply is not enough supply of eggs from “free-range” hens with outdoor access to cover the void that would result without “cage-free” eggs. About half the eggs purchased by PCC shoppers are “cage-free.”

It takes years to build the market for a better choice and PCC began laying the foundation four years ago, by selling a small supply of organic pastured eggs from one small family farm, Misty Meadows, at just two of our stores. In making that choice available, awareness and demand has grown and buyers have found and added five more pastured egg suppliers. They also added Wilcox free-range eggs, but still, there aren’t enough free-range eggs (much less pastured) to replace the cage-free. Understand that avian flu, meanwhile, has decimated flocks, especially in the Midwest where millions of chickens died, and buyers are drawing off the Northwest supply, further increasing pressure on providers.

See the Sound Consumer May report, “What do egg labels mean?” aimed at educating shoppers to help drive better choices.

The PCC-brand milk is from certified organic, local farms so the cows are on pasture a minimum of 120 days during the growing season and have access outdoors, except during inclement weather.

Country Natural Beef is range-grazed for most of the first 14 to 18 months, then goes through a finishing period in an outdoor feedyard for about 120 days.

Caffeine and hydration

I was surprised to see advice in the July Sound Consumer from PCC nutrition educator Nick Rose that green tea doesn’t count toward daily water intake — and that he reinforced the myth that people should drink eight cups of water a day. It’s also a myth that caffeinated beverages don’t count toward liquid intake. Their diuretic effect is very small.

— C.C.

Nick Rose replies: The eight cups per day recommendation comes from the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendation to consume 2.7 liters of water per day (note: this number is for women; men have an even higher recommendation).

2.7 liters per day translates to 11.5 cups per day, but because we also get water from foods, the eight cups per day recommendation assumes that we will get an additional three to four cups of water from food.

The water recommendation is considered an Adequate Intake (AI) recommendation, not an RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance). AIs are used when there is less data to back up the dietary recommendations, while RDAs are for nutrients with more research to support the recommendation. There isn’t a ton of data to “prove” that we all need those eight cups per day, but there also isn’t any reason that promoting eight cups per day is a concern, as water toxicity doesn’t kick in until it’s consumed in much higher doses.

Upon further review on the topic of caffeine and hydration, it appears that my response in July was not up to date on this topic. A 2014 study in the journal PLOS found that in habitual coffee drinkers, moderate coffee intake did not influence hydration status.

Sound Consumer effective

I just want to let you know what a big difference it has made for us that you put our volunteer notice in the July Sound Consumer. We have had several potential volunteers reach out to us, and are feeling a renewed sense of optimism around the projects of this year’s harvest season. Thank you very much for your support.

— Lindsey Robinson, Farms for Life

PCC replies: When we have room in the community calendar, we’re always happy to include community announcements — especially those related to food and agriculture.

Also in this issue

PCC Board of Trustees report, September 2015

Board meeting report, Bylaws review, Message from nominating committee, and more

Country-of-origin labeling?

The U.S. House repealed Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), which lets consumers know the origin of foods.

Hot trend: raw foods

PCC shoppers are buying raw foods not just because they're made from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains or beans, but also because they're seeking foods with minimal added sugars, fats and salt. When these foods take the form of berry "Cheesecake," kale chips, or PCC's own Rockin' Raw Kale salad, what's not to love?