Letters to the editor, June 2016

This article was originally published in June 2016

PCC’s body care standards

Re: “New standards for PCC health and body care” (May), how do your new standards compare to those of the Natural Products Association (NPA), which is what I understand PCC used historically as a baseline for acceptable products? Stronger? Weaker? Stronger on some points, weaker on others? If not stronger across the board, what is PCC now allowing that NPA prohibits?

— Chris Hubbard

PCC nutrition educator Marilyn Walls replies: PCC began with NPA standards as a starting point in 2010 but they covered only body care products, not supplements. NPA had created categories for non-allowable ingredients, but the specifics within those categories were difficult to discern. Often, to PCC, the NPA standards seemed to favor manufacturers rather than consumers, and we found the NPA standards not to be transparent enough.

Our new PCC standards cover both body care and supplements, broadening and strengthening our criteria. Our PCC Prohibited List now includes more than 550 ingredients, possibly the highest standards of any U.S. retailer and tougher than NPA standards. For example, PCC requires a much closer scrutiny of certain ingredients: ingredients that may be allowed or prohibited depending on ingredient source and manufacturing process. In these cases, we ask for documentation of either source or process, and sometimes both.

PCC is proud to take such a unique and uncompromising stand on what ingredients are allowed in our health and body care products. As always our first priority is the protection of our customers and the planet.

Amazon Prime Now delivery

PCC’s decision to partner with Amazon’s Prime Now delivery service sparked a lively debate among members and shoppers. At press time, we had received nearly 75 comments via social media and letters to our customer service team — some supporting the partnership, others criticizing it. Below is a selection.

“I’m appalled my PCC is collaborating with Amazon; abuser of workers, destroyer of Seattle’s neighborhoods, exploiter/killer of bookstores, and all-around Bad Corporate Citizen. Need I mention the packaging waste and huge CO2 costs of super-fast delivery? I run a small business and we’ve worked hard to avoid putting a penny into Amazon’s pocket. Disappointed that PCC has gone this route.”

— Margot

“This isn’t forcing anyone to use their service, it’s an option. Thank you PCC for providing more OPTIONS for people.”

— Lucy

“Love PCC, but can’t support Amazon.”

— Melissa

“I just broke my ankle and have two small children. I am thrilled I can continue to have the quality produce and meat we value, delivered to our home.”

— Sarah S.

“I love it! Placed my first order today and came on time and complete!”

— Debbie

“In bed with Amazon, wow. Shame on you PCC.”

— Karen

“No thanks! Amazon has way too much control and power already. I like the original PCC. Local food co-op. PCC is going corporate … makes me sad. I will not be using this service. If you do not have time to go food shopping, time to make a change in your life and slow down!”

— Jacki

“Fantastic PCC produce and meat delivered when scheduled. The app was easy to use. Thank you PCC!”

— Ann

“I’m a big fan of PCC and have been a member for more than 30 years. So I was shocked and frankly quite ticked off when I read this morning that you were partnering with Amazon. That’s the same Amazon that is wreaking havoc on local neighborhood retailers. The same Amazon that has shown consistent disregard for the well-being of its warehouse employees. The same Amazon whose retail model is about as eco-friendly as the coal industry’s. So these are values that PCC is now championing? Shame on you.”

— Harry

PCC note: The decision to partner with Amazon was made with much thought and discussion for two reasons. First, Amazon Prime Now delivers to neighborhoods where our other delivery option, Instacart, does not. Many PCC shoppers had asked us to expand home delivery to their areas and Prime Now makes that possible. Second, a significant number of PCC members already are Amazon Prime subscribers, meaning they can get deliveries without a fee.

Health benefits of asparagus

Like thousands of other people in Western Washington, I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Interestingly, I have found that many, not all, of the symptoms of this disease can be stopped by keeping the pH of the body high. That goal can be accomplished in several ways, one of which is eating asparagus.

The health benefits of asparagus are largely unreported. Is there a way to do that at PCC?

— Timothy Muck

PCC nutrition educator Nick Rose replies: Asparagus is considered one of the most alkalizing vegetables, and it’s believed to help rid acids from the body, to improve the body’s pH levels. According to the resource World’s Healthiest Foods, asparagus can boost the levels of glutathione, the body’s most essential antioxidant, important for regular detoxification of the liver.

Most vegetables are alkaline because of their mineral content. Potassium is one of the most alkalizing nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables. Calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals also are alkalizing and found in many plant foods. There isn't a lot of research confirming the health benefits of an alkaline-promoting diet, but there's a lot of interest in alkaline-promoting foods for various health conditions.

Asparagus also is very low in calories and like other green vegetables, it’s an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, fiber, and vitamins A and C. It also contains beneficial prebiotic fiber that supports our microbiome, a critical component of health for many body systems (heart, brain, immune, digestive). Asparagus also contains many beneficial antioxidants that support immunity, reduce inflammation and protect against cancer.

June marks the end of fresh asparagus season at PCC, but you’ll find it year-round in our freezer section, ready to add to stir-fries, pasta, frittatas and more.

Glyphosate and wheat

I’m looking for wheat flour for bread-making and general all-purpose that has not been sprayed in the field with glyphosate. I’ve done hours of research and came up empty.

Apparently, even flour marked “organic” can have some glyphosate content. I noticed you carry Fairhaven flour. Fairhaven’s website sounds like it might fill the bill. What about Bob’s Red Mill? Is it glyphosate-free?

PCC replies: Choosing organic wheat is the best way to avoid glyphosate. Organic farming prohibits use of glyphosate and any traces in organic wheat are fractional compared to levels in non-organic, so we recommend choosing organic to minimize glyphosate intake. All our bulk wheat flours are certified organic, including some from Fairhaven. Bob’s Red Mill has several organic flours but also non-organic, so look for the organic seal.

Supplement quality

I’m interested to know why PCC supplements do not have the USP Dietary Supplement Verification mark. This indicates a supplement has been submitted voluntarily to the USP (U.S. pharmacopeial) by its manufacturer and has met the program criteria, which includes quality, purity, potency, performance and consistency and current U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) good manufacturing practices. I have been told by many very reputable health professionals to purchase only supplements with this mark.

Who is the manufacturer of PCC supplements?

— Joyce Turner

PCC Health and Body Care Merchandiser Terry DeBlasio replies: All supplements and vitamins, contrary to popular belief, are regulated by the FDA and are subject to current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs). There are three agencies that verify quality, purity, performance and consistency for supplements: USP, NSF and NPA. USP is a nongovernmental health organization that sets official public standards. NPA (Natural Products Association) is the nation’s largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. NSF is the National Sanitation Foundation, a public health and safety organization that provides auditing for a range of industries. All are third-party certifiers, and although each is nonprofit, all charge for that service. All have strict requirements and adhere to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) of the federal government. These CFR rules are the basis for the FDA’s CGMPs.

All vitamins and supplements sold at PCC follow CGMPs. Our private-label supplements are made by Vitamer, which is certified to CGMPs by NPA. NPA certification covers all requirements of the CGMP as well as certain additional factors not required by the FDA. The Vitamer facility also is registered and inspected by the FDA for pharmaceutical manufacturing, an added layer of quality standards.

To meet CGMP standards, even without third-party verification, regular inspections and documentations are required by the FDA. Companies such as Vitamer go the extra step and add a third-party certification, in this case NPA verification.

Food waste

“PCC has used WISErg Corporation’s food scrap harvesters to convert nearly 400 tons of food scraps into organic fertilizer” (Facebook post, April 22).

Not to be negative — I hope as much food as possible is being donated to food banks before “food scraps” are sent to composters. When I first got laying hens, I collected organic food scraps for them from the produce department at Marlene’s Market. I was amazed at the amount of less-than-perfect, but very edible, fruits and veggies in the compost bin. (I’ll admit the hens shared.) So now I take every opportunity to encourage donations to food banks. Keep up the good work, PCC!

— Jeanne Fancher, via Facebook

PCC replies: PCC donates as much usable food as possible (produce, deli items, dairy, grocery, etc.) to our partner food banks and to several nonprofit organizations in our community (see pccmarkets.com/foodbank). The only foods that go into the WISErg harvesters are those that the organizations can’t accept, with the exception of our hot food bar items. We’re working on the logistics of how to give hot bar foods to nonprofits.

Customer service

I just saw one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen at the PCC in Greenlake. I was standing in line, and right in front of me was a person who seemed to be deaf and blind. He pointed to his ear when it was his time to pay, signaling to the cashier that he couldn’t hear. Out of the blue, John, the cashier, held the customer’s palm and started signing into it. He told him how much he had to pay, and also asked if he wanted a bag — all with ASL. The customer’s face lit up as John knew exactly how to communicate with him. I thought this was so fortuitous. It turns out that John had studied ASL in college and this was the first time he had encountered a deaf-blind customer. It certainly made my week, and I thought I’d share this with you. — Carlos Otero

Also in this issue

News bites, June 2016

USDA won't regulate GE mushroom, Sugar more addictive than cocaine, Fast food and chemical exposure, and more

New Dietary Guidelines: What you should know

The federal government's latest Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans shift their dietary patterns, and consume no more than 10 percent of calories from added sugar.

PCC Board of Trustees report, June 2016

PCC Discovery Day, Election results, Thank you, and more