Letters to the editor, November 2016

This article was originally published in November 2016

Supporting choice at PCC

Recently I have read letters to the editor complaining that PCC provides things that people ought not to be consuming — too much sugar, artificial hair color, whatever. These are good points, but the disapproving tone in one letter was almost that PCC should be the arbiter of everyone’s conscience.

Do you remember when meat was first introduced? I was fine with that, although others were incensed. I have since become vegan and the meat department no longer exists for me.

And how about when alcohol was introduced? I was a teetotaler then and it bothered me. Now, I allow people to handle their own concerns.

Providing access to healthful foods and promoting education on the subject are valid functions. Screening out unhealthful alternatives such as benecol (margarine) is a valid function. I hope PCC will keep on doing these things without ever adopting a viewpoint that it has to modify the thinking of members by approval or disapproval of their behavior.

— Lynne Hoverson

The PCC difference

I saw the article about PCC in The Seattle Times (“PCC’s challenge to keep its brand relevant, yet retain its core values,” September 17).

It got me thinking, especially about differentiating PCC from other brands. I used to be in marketing and PR so this is a question I’m very used to considering. One of the best things about PCC, if not the best — and a huge differentiator — is trust.

I love reading the Sound Consumer as it confronts issues head-on and lets members know that even if you carry something that does not meet all standards, there’s a reason you carry it. The choice is left up to us, but the information to support our decisions is available.

PCC vets its merchandise and knows the supply chain and shares that info readily with its members. This is something no other grocery store does and for this reason alone, I shop as often as possible at PCC. I love PCC and wish you all success.

— Lynn

Avoiding carbs?

I was catching up on my reading and read the “Avoiding carbs?” article by Nick Rose in the February issue.

Please extend my thanks to Mr. Rose for writing such a well-thought-out, informative article. How rare — a voice of rationality with this subject.

As a side comment, what might separate us from our ancestors as close as one to two decades ago are the changes in growing and processing of grains, especially wheat. Bromated flour, pesticide residues, etc. could be behind the somewhat recent spike in intolerance. I have patients who have reactions to bread here that, when in Europe, do not have symptoms.

Sincerely and with thanks, — Bill Caradonna, R.Ph., N.D.

Product standards

I noticed Field Day products in your stores. Do the products come from the United States?

Also, it would be nice know what milk products come from farms where the cows are treated well and are allowed to roam when not being milked. Where can I learn more about this?

— Anonymous

PCC replies: The majority of Field Day’s products are produced in the United States but some contain imported ingredients. (See http://www.fielddayproducts.com/fd_values).

As for dairy, we believe PCC milk vendors treat their cows very well. We’re happy to share details about specific products and brands — just ask! PCC’s house-brand organic milk, Organic Valley, Pure éire, Grace Harbor, and Twin Brooks all provide plenty of time to roam outdoors on pasture. Organic standards also encourage time for calves to be near their moms. Pure éire in particular goes above and beyond organic in several ways. See the cover story.

Organic ingredients in the deli

I eat only organic for my health and the health of the earth. I don’t comprehend how your deli doesn’t have one item that’s completely organic (as far as I can tell).

If the ingredients aren’t all organic, then you really aren’t contributing to a lifestyle that helps sustain organic farming. I was surprised that your deli items can contain five organic ingredients and then have non-organic cheese! Or something like that. What’s the point of only some of the ingredients being organic if other ingredients are not?

— Martha M.

PCC deli merchandiser Leon Bloom replies: Thank you for your dedication to organics and for raising this question. We’re always looking to use more organic ingredients where we can. We’ve made huge strides in the past decade, moving from mostly non-organic to almost entirely organic in our deli ingredients.

There are certain ingredients that we still are not able to source organic reliably or affordably. Some ingredients are available only at certain times of the year (e.g., organic bell peppers) or are not available at all (organic jicama) or are in very short supply (organic feta cheese). Going completely organic would require that we restructure our menu and discontinue or rewrite many recipes, even those that are 95-percent organic.

While we choose mostly organic ingredients, we charge the same or less than our major competitors, who use less-expensive, non-organic ingredients. We believe it’s better to support organic farming by purchasing as much organic as possible, while having a diverse offering that keeps our business thriving.

We’re committed to a triple-bottom-line business model (social, environmental and financial). To manage PCC responsibly, we’ll continue to make these decisions carefully and look for places where we can add more organic ingredients.

Contaminated spices

Our family shops almost exclusively at PCC and appreciates your efforts to provide us with healthful food. This 2013 article from Mother Jones magazine about high phthalate levels in organic foods gave me pause about buying and consuming organic spices and dairy.

I’ve contacted a couple of the dairy providers I purchase through your stores and it seems they use good practices. Can you tell me anything more about your spice providers? Do you know if your spices are tested for phthalates or would be exposed to phthalates? The level of phthalates in coriander in the study especially is alarming. Thank you for your help with this.

— Briana Thiodet

I recently read in Natural News about contamination in herbs and spices and want to know if PCC’s are safe and how you know.

— Mary

PCC replies: We source most of our spices from Frontier Co-op, which told us, “When the study discussed in the Mother Jones article came out, we immediately evaluated our supply chain for phthalates contamination. Our research didn’t show the risk factors outlined in this study: We looked at the packaging and also did a test to verify the raw materials were not affected. We also have a testing program where we test for lead and other heavy metals for items we deem to be risky.”

Frontier also does microbiological testing for yeasts, molds and pathogens, saying “significant steps are taken to ensure that quality specifications are met and comply with third-party audited Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)standards. Where applicable, we utilize a sophisticated steam sterilization system, which eliminates pathogens. Further lab tests confirm the absence of pathogens. The spices are packaged in a facility operating under the same GFSI certification.”

Raw vs. roasted nuts

Is there a nutritional difference between raw and roasted nuts? I’ve always assumed that raw packs more nutrition, that some nutrient values are lost or diminished with roasting. But lately I would prefer to eat roasted nuts some of the time.

Can you please comment on this?

— Leslie Geller

PCC nutrition educator Nick Rose replies: One potential benefit of roasting nuts is that it can slightly reduce the levels of “anti-nutrients” common in nuts and seeds that bind to minerals (iron, zinc, calcium), making these minerals harder to digest. So roasting nuts makes them more digestible. You also can reduce anti-nutrients in raw nuts by soaking.

There’s plenty of research showing that eating nuts is associated with a reduced risk of diseases, but these studies don’t distinguish between raw and roasted nuts. The majority of the nutrients in nuts (and seeds) are stable with heating. Protein, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, etc. are unlikely to be reduced when nuts are heated.

The only nutrients in nuts that are less stable with heating are vitamins B and E, which could be reduced when roasted. Also, the polyunsaturated fatty acids could become oxidized if heated to high temperatures. Roasting nuts at higher temperatures can produce acrylamides, a probable carcinogen, so some people roast their own nuts at home to keep the roasting temperature low.

It’s probably best to eat a combination of some raw and some roasted nuts and seeds, rather than limiting to just one or the other.

Fresh vs. frozen salmon

Why is some salmon labeled “previously frozen” at PCC? How does it differ from “fresh”?

— Bill

PCC replies: Salmon labeled “previously frozen” means it was processed and frozen right after it was caught and is kept frozen as it travels to us. We thaw it in our stores, so it’s ready for you to take home to cook.

It’s the same wild salmon we sell fresh from May through September, during the fishing season. Fresh fish sometimes travels to us in less than 24 hours, but no more than three days.

PCC sells only wild salmon for health, social and environmental reasons. Selling previously frozen salmon allows us to sell the same highest-quality wild Alaskan salmon year-round.

Some consumers prefer previously frozen because they like that the freshness is preserved by freezing. The texture of previously frozen fish can be a little firmer when cooked and may hold up better on a grill.

Styrofoam recycling

Thank you for promoting our event, Kirkland StyroFest, as well as many other Styrofoam recycling options throughout the region in your October issue. We’re thrilled to be able to provide polystyrene foam recycling for the Kirkland community, and collect about 60 to 80 cubic yards of polystyrene foam, plastic bags and expanded polyethylene each month. We would like to clarify that StyroFest is intended for Kirkland residents due to limits on capacity, budget and staff.

We encourage PCC customers to utilize polystyrene foam recycling options throughout the region, although there are fewer options than we’d like. We urge PCC customers to contact their cities and local organizations and ask them to provide more recycling options for styrofoam. The City of Kirkland would be happy to share information about how we set up our program with any organization interested in running a similar event. For example, the City of Federal Way offers polystyrene foam recycling drop-off for the holidays. Customers also can ask businesses that produce large quantities of polystyrene foam, such as furniture and appliance stores, to consider accepting it for recycling.

— Tracy Durnell, City of Kirkland Solid Waste Division

Also in this issue

PCC Board of Trustees report, November 2016

Apply to be a Trustee with PCC Natural Markets, September board meeting, Next board meeting, and more

News bites, November 2016

Five-second rule debunked?, Farmworkers demand pesticide ban, Stopping seed and chemical mergers?, and more

Your co-op community, November 2016

Holiday food drive, MOHAI Edible City: A Delicious Journey, 2017 Chinook Book sale, and more