Letters to the editor, December 2015

This article was originally published in December 2015

PCC as a resource

I love PCC. I have lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1986. I wish only that I had joined sooner. I have confidence in the quality of the food I purchase from PCC. The nutrients contribute to the health and well-being of me and those I love.

Thank you so much for the information in the Sound Consumer. I work in the healthcare field as a pharmacist. I strongly feel that better nutrition and the quality of the nutrients that we consume promote better health. If more people would read publications like the Sound Consumer I feel the need for services in my field would be greatly reduced. Keep up the great work.

— C. Denise Freund

PCC replies: We’d love to hear what topics interest you most! Please take our survey.

Honey in the deli

Please consider removing honey from your deli items that otherwise would be vegan without that one ingredient. Over the summer, I accidently bought the PCC Moroccan eggplant, not seeing honey on the ingredient list until back at home. Another deli item that would be great without honey is the PCC baked beans.

Good substitutes are agave, maple syrup or other sweeteners (could you carry bee-free honee?). Unfortunately, most honey comes from bees that are treated with antibiotics and are forced to eat corn syrup when their honey is taken away. Please consider using other sweeteners instead of honey. Thank you,

— Lili Hein, Kirkland

PCC replies: Honey is not a frequently used ingredient in the deli but in the dishes mentioned it serves a very specific purpose, in North African cuisine and in the BBQ sauce used to make our baked beans. We have many vegan options at all times that don’t contain honey or added sweeteners of any kind. Even so, some portion of the population avoids or can’t have some ingredients in prepared foods.

We asked GloryBee, our main honey supplier, whether its bees are treated with antibiotics or raised with corn syrup. It said it requires honey suppliers to provide documentation and affidavits to verify their extraction and beekeeping practices are ethical and natural.

GloryBee also does sugar profile analyses to screen for foreign sugars, which would imply adulteration or illegal feeding. It does pollen analyses to identify origin and ensure the pollen is natural in that region. Finally, it runs tests to ensure no illegal antibiotics are used.

Vegan resources

I’m in the middle of moving toward a completely plant-based diet for the health of the planet and myself. I purchased VegNews and was troubled by the very disturbing ads regarding animal welfare that were mixed in with vegan recipes. Yikes!

Becoming plant-based is a positive move and I would like to support this effort with positive information.

I don’t feel like I should stand and go through the magazines before I purchase them and I don’t want to see those images anyway.

Can you recommend a good magazine/journal that isn’t all about being against something, even if it is well meaning and important, but instead offers a positive, forward approach? Thank you.

— DS

PCC replies: We recommend Civil Eats, Consumers Union, Cornucopia Institute and Rodale Institute websites for forward-thinking articles and news for the full spectrum of shoppers who recognize, like you, that our diets are not fixed forever but evolve and change over time. Vegetarian Times and Modern Farmer are print magazines you may enjoy. We do feature 1,600 vegetarian recipes on our website, and many PCC Cooks classes have a vegetarian focus.

Meat and cancer link?

Could someone at PCC speak to the implications of the recent World Health Organization (WHO) study on the “Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat” (published in The Lancet), in regards to the meat that PCC carries?

The study said that regularly eating processed foods, such as sausage and bacon, increases colorectal cancer risk. It would be great to know if WHO’s concerns fall equally on things, such as organic sausage and bacon that PCC carries — or if the risk has more to do with preservatives or other qualities of non-organic products. Thank you for the information.

— Alison Mehravari

PCC replies: We’ve asked the same question many times: what kind of meats do the studies look at, and what role do artificial preservatives and additives (not allowed by PCC’s quality standards) play? We’re not aware of any study involving the kind of sausage and bacon we sell, sorry to say. We think that’s an important distinction that deserves further research. PCC doesn’t sell meat produced with synthetic nitrates.

The WHO report found “limited evidence” that red meat contributes to colorectal cancer risk and “sufficient evidence” that processed meat promotes colorectal cancer. “Processed meat” in the report included all cured, smoked, fermented, salted and canned meats. The report reviewed more than 800 studies, which didn’t distinguish between organic and “uncured” processed meat from conventional meat.

There’s speculation that the iron found in meats can react with the nitrates used as preservatives to produce carcinogens. However, according to the Q&A accompanying the WHO report, “it is not yet fully understood how cancer risk is increased by red meat or processed meat.”

Wi-Fi in PCC stores

I noticed that PCC recently installed free Wi-Fi at the Redmond store (and maybe others). This decision is in stark opposition to PCC’s work to promote healthy lifestyle choices among its members.

PCC has previously shown some level of awareness on the health issues caused by RF and microwave radiation (of which Wi-Fi is a subset). However, encouraging people to use Wi-Fi in close proximity to food, children, pregnant women and anyone else who is at increased risk from high levels of RF radiation is irresponsible.

While RF radiation may not be an issue of food safety, it does rank right alongside water fluoridation as a threat to public health. RF radiation has been classified as a Class 2B carcinogen by WHO, which puts it in the same category as lead and DDT. We can’t simply ignore the risks of increased exposure to RF radiation and just hope everything will be okay. We need to educate people that there are risks to using wireless devices, as well as some simple ways to reduce those risks.

I urge PCC to reevaluate its decision to provide/encourage Wi-Fi use at its stores.

— Erin Honeycutt

PCC replies: We realize there are concerns about non-ionizing electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation — including the radiofrequency radiation (RFR) emitted by Wi-Fi, cell phones, Smart Meters and other wireless communications equipment in our stores and virtually all retail environments.

Our stores have long been wired for wireless ordering, receiving, pricing, credit card checkouts and more. For better or worse, wireless technologies have become integral to our society and they greatly help PCC operate stores efficiently and competitively. Now access to our existing Wi-Fi network simply is extended to our shoppers as a customer service.

It’s true numerous studies reviewed by the American Cancer Society, the Food and Drug Administration and other scientific organizations agree the majority of research shows no convincing evidence of increased cancer rates among cell phone users. Many of these studies, however, are funded by the industry.

We’re aware the American Academy of Pediatrics and the California Medical Association are urging regulators to reevaluate safety standards for wireless technologies. We’ll look forward to ongoing research for guidance.

Pale-yolked eggs

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: A pale yellow egg yolk is not a free-range egg, period! I’ve raised laying hens for 17 years and on occasion buy a carton of eggs when my hens are not laying enough for our family. I picked up a carton of Baron Farms “Helen the Hen” eggs last week for this reason.

Here is a quote from the company website: “When a hen is allowed to eat grass, wonderful things happen. They produce a superior egg with a bright orange yolk and a much healthier nutritional profile.”

Well, the eggs in my carton have the palest yellow yolks! Even in winter when my hens have been in their bedded run for weeks on end in bad weather my yolks are dark yellow at the very lightest. Something is not right with this picture.

I’ve heard all sorts of excuses from farmers who want to cash in on the free-range, pastured egg movement and charge prices to go with it, then I crack open an egg and see a pale yellow yolk.

The Helen the Hen carton says, “Pastured eggs are better for you.” Is this some sort of false advertising?

— Julia Creighton

Baron Farms’ owner Marty Davis replies: The pale yolks are due to the drought we’ve experienced this year. Our hens still have access outside all the time but it has been difficult to keep grass on the fields.

I wasn’t able to plant grass until June due to the lack of water. After I planted the grass, we got very high heats that made the grass come up quite slowly. There’s lots of grass again now, but it takes time for the hens to get used to going back on the grass and for it to make a difference in the yolk color.

I’ve been looking into finding a good source of grass pellets to help so even if the hens don’t have grass on the field they will get lots of grass in their diet. For the future we are changing our coop design so there’s twice the amount of pasture per flock. Each hen already has about 22 square-feet per hen. We’re trying to make our operation a little more drought-proof.

Also in this issue

PCC Board of Trustees report, December 2015

Work on the bylaws, Board report, Next meeting, and more

News bites, December 2015

Washington second in organic sales, Fish retire?, Sunscreen harms coral reefs, and more

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

Learn why the Northwest apple harvest wrapped up early, why local, wild mushrooms are in short supply, what's causing popcorn prices to spike, and more reports from our producers.