Letters to the editor, February 2016

This article was originally published in February 2016

Calming anxiety with food

Re: “Calming anxiety with food” (December), wow! I got major chill bumps when I began reading this article. Incredible timing. I was just clearing out my work email (trying not to have a panic attack due to everything that needs to be completed). Everything listed is what my body is low on …. magnesium, zinc, omega-3s, etc.

I was taking all of these supplements daily until I ran out six months ago. I’m feeling the effects of not supplementing! Thanks for the reminder!

I love you!

— Jen, Special education teacher

Fish “retire?”

Thank you for the fun blurb on fish that “retire” (December News Bites) featuring the Alaskan species, Dolly Varden, which stops bothering with long migrations from fresh water to the sea and back once its fat reserves let it coast into retirement.

But you should know some Dolly Varden are homebodies and simply stay small and healthy in clean, fresh water their whole lives if they don’t have easy access to the ocean. Whether they have lived peripatetically or as homebodies, I’ll try not to buy them if they end up in your store, since I have gone almost entirely vegan.

— Solomon Karmel

Calorie counters

Can you tell me how many calories are in each vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookie — the ones that come in the 18-pack (the small little cookies in a bag)? The MyFitnessPal app says each cookie contains 110 calories. This seems completely illogical to me because the cookies are approximately 1-inch diameter. Can you help solve the mystery?

— Erin M.

PCC replies: Good catch! The MyFitnessPal app you’re using does not appear to be providing accurate nutrition information for these mini cookies. If you use the PCC Nutrition Facts page of our website, you’ll find each of these mini cookies contain only 77 calories.

We searched for other PCC products on the MyFitnessPal page and found the nutrition information for almost all PCC products was not accurate. The nutrition data is submitted by users of this app (not by PCC) and, as a result, the accuracy is poor. That may be true for other calorie-tracking websites and apps relying on data submitted by users.

Meat and cancer link?

Re: “Meat and cancer link?” (Letters to the editor, December): The World Health Organization is not the only medical scientific group to find a plant-based diet more suitable for humans.

From the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR): “Today, AICR advocates a predominantly plant-based diet for lower cancer risk because of the great work Dr. Campbell and just a few other visionaries began 25 years ago.”

AICR refers to the book authored by doctors Campbell and Campbell, “The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health.” In it, ample evidence is provided pointing to the fact that a plant-based diet results in less cancer and other illnesses than a meat-based diet.

The China Study utilizes not only meta-studies but also decades of original research on vast numbers of humans. The book describes how vested corporations have manipulated governmental agencies to support the meat industries and alter governmental educational programs.

Non-food additives (usually toxic) to either meat or plants would be undesirable logically. Going organic and keeping strong organic regulations in place makes sense. It is, however, the profound differences between animals and plants that seem to trigger profoundly different health results from eating them.

— Demian

Pine nut ecological impact

I wonder where PCC’s pine nuts are sourced from and what type of pine nuts are used in pesto sold by PCC? A recent New York Times article explained how “the pine nut industry may be contributing to the crash of an ecosystem” in the Russian far east.

We would prefer that any pine nuts we eat not be contributing to this problem or skip the pine nuts and substitute walnuts in pesto and other dishes. Thanks for any information you can share about pine nuts sold by PCC or in PCC products.

— Diane Hardee

PCC replies: Pine nuts at PCC are from China or Turkey, depending on availability. We haven’t found any domestic pine nuts available through commercial distributors, unfortunately.

Antibiotics in agriculture

In “Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues,” Martin Blaser says, “The antibiotic oxytetracycline — closely related to a form of tetracycline widely used in people — and streptomycin are even used on organic apples and pears to combat fire blight, a bacterial disease of fruit trees. The use of such drugs does not have to be divulged.”

This is disconcerting. When we buy organic products, we make assumptions about what has been used on them and what has not been used on them. Now we have to know what questions to ask beyond those assumptions. How would the average consumer know to ask about antibiotics on organic fruit?

More specifically, are PCC’s organic apples and pears treated with antibiotics? How about ones from outside the United States, for example, Fuji apples from New Zealand? If growers don’t have to divulge the information, can we be confident in what they tell us? — Julie S.

PCC replies: The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted in April 2013 to end the use of antibiotics in organic fruit production, so Blaser’s book is a couple years out of date. At the time, PCC argued for an end to antibiotics in organic apple and pear production. We also published two articles to keep shoppers informed. See “Antibiotics for organic apples and pears?” and “No antibiotics for organic apples and pears”. Some organic growers argued for the allowance to continue.

Be aware that antibiotics for organic apple and pear orchards still would be allowed under a recent change by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the so-called “Sunset Provision.” USDA’s new rule also means 12 additional artificial materials remain allowed, instead of “sunsetting.” See PCC’s letter to the USDA & NOP.

Salmon in peril?

Although technically correct, the information in November’s Soil & Sea report regarding salmon and steelhead in Oregon, California and Washington was rather misleading. It states that salmon and steelhead in those states are in danger of going away forever due to drought. The last sentence of the article tells us that more than half of the spring spawning run up the Columbia River perished, probably because of a disease that thrives in warm water.

What the article doesn’t mention is that in the fall run, the Columbia Basin saw the second strongest year in salmon since the federal dams were built nearly 80 years ago, according to an article in The Seattle Times on November 30, page B3. The article says a record number of fall Chinook salmon returned up the Columbia River; more than 456,000. An estimated 200,000 made it back to Hanford Reach, the most since the dams were built. Furthermore, the article says that both federal and tribal leaders hailed the impressive run as a positive sign of their efforts to improve both fish habitat and passage at the dams.

When I first read your November article, I was quite concerned, but then when I read the Seattle Times article, I was disappointed in what you had published. Your article made me feel like I should stop eating salmon and that we weren’t doing enough for salmon habitat, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

— S.R.

PCC replies: You’re right about the Columbia Basin’s return of fall Chinook last year, which wasn’t reported until after Sound Consumer went to press, when the drought’s impact still was making headlines. We didn’t yet know about the final numbers on the fall Chinook. We didn’t mean to misconstrue evidence; we were just reporting the info we had at the time.

The large run of Columbia River fall Chinook in 2015 was happy news, but we do want to warn against a false sense of security about the state of Northwest salmon. Alaska’s sockeye and coho salmon runs — and their habitat — have been well managed for years and indeed are sustainable. That’s why you’ll find wild Alaskan salmon year-round at PCC.

But salmon populations in California, Oregon and Washington have declined dramatically as a result of dam construction, habitat loss, climatic shifts, historic overfishing and other factors. In California, Oregon and Washington, nearly 30 populations of salmon and steelhead are on the Endangered Species List — nearly half of which are found in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Wild populations there return at just 1 to 3 percent of historic levels.

Hatchery salmon from the Columbia Basin make up most of the catch in northern Oregon and Washington today. Though current salmon returns are low relative to historic levels, they’re well managed — fishermen focus on hatchery fish while protecting the imperiled wild populations. Thankfully there are great groups such as the Save Our Wild Salmon coalition and others doing important fisheries management and conservation work that are helping protect and restore abundant, self-sustaining stocks here.

Produce stickers

The October Sound Consumer had a letter from Jordan Van Voast asking about produce stickers. While PCC responded, Jordan’s last question was not addressed. As I share the same frustration/concern as Jordan voiced in the letter, I wanted to follow up.

Can we advocate for a more environmentally friendly labeling option for produce that doesn’t pollute garden soil?

— Stacy Strickland

PCC replies: We have asked but don’t know of any development in a more compost-friendly sticker. Our main produce supplier, Organically Grown Company (OGC), says compostable paper stickers come off or dissolve when they get even slightly wet, leaving the sticky part behind.

OGC says it keeps looking at alternatives and experimenting with different products, but at this time it has not found a sticker that stays on the produce when it gets wet and biodegrades.

Also in this issue

PCC Board of Trustees report, February 2016

Board report, Bylaws update, Get to know your trustees

Sustainable agriculture gains momentum in the Puyallup Valley

The PCC Farmland Trust has conserved seven farm properties in the Puyallup Valley since 2009 and has identified another 300+ acres to preserve in this important agricultural valley.

Pesticide politics

At least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or faced other consequences arising from research that called into question the safety of agricultural chemicals.