Letters to the editor, December 2016

This article was originally published in December 2016

“Good gut advice”

The October Sound Consumer article, “Good gut advice: eat more fiber” was very interesting. Does the research have anything to say about how lack of fiber affects hunter-gatherer cultures, such as the Inuit, that subsist primarily on meat and fish?

I really enjoy Sound Consumer. Thanks for educating us!

— Anna Johansen

Author Erica Sonnenburg, PhD, replies: I’m in the process of reviewing a study that’s looking into this exact question. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find Inuits who haven’t shifted toward a Western diet. Some still eat traditional foods but they’re mixed with Western foods, so it’s tough to say how representative their microbiota is compared to pre-Western food.

Our lab at Stanford actively is seeking traditional populations that have maintained a high-meat traditional diet but answers from those studies are years away. People like the Inuit largely were isolated from other populations, so it’s likely they have mutations that allow for better tolerance of a meat-heavy diet — mutations that people of European or African descent wouldn’t have. There’s evidence this has occurred in Inuit populations in Greenland where the people exhibit extra health benefits from fish.


PCC’s exclusive coffee blends

Several shoppers shared comments on our Facebook page about “Locally roasted exclusively for PCC” (October), profiling Tony’s Coffee’s three organic, fair trade coffee blends sold only at PCC:

This is our staple coffee. We love it.

— Nissa Rodinec

It’s really good, and a much better price than other options. We’re really happy with PCC house brand items.

— Rebecca Lane

Please give us some good medium roast decaf!

— Sue Powell

Is there any shade-grown decaf at PCC? — Debbie Smith McLeod

PCC replies: The process of making decaffeinated coffee is very involved and we use a blend of beans, so in combining them we would end up with more decaf than we could sell. That’s why our custom blends are not available in decaf, unfortunately. We do sell decaf packaged coffees by three other local brands: Caffe Vita, Kicking Horse and Ethical Bean.

All coffee at PCC is shade-grown. This means coffee trees are grown in the shade of the tropical forest that provides habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, including endangered species. Growing coffee this way also means there’s greater biodiversity and less monoculture, which encourages resistance to coffee tree pests and invasive species.


Titanium dioxide

The candy corn I was drooling over for a few weeks and finally went to buy has titanium dioxide as a coloring agent listed as an ingredient! That stuff isn’t so good for a consumable product. Why is PCC carrying it and why would the company even need to whiten the candy in the first place?

Thanks for all you do and the excellent communication you maintain with customers. You rock PCC.

— Janna Rose

PCC replies: You’re right about titanium dioxide. The 2016 Halloween season was the last for candy corn in our stores because it contains this whitening agent. PCC told our vendors in January that we’re no longer accepting new edible products that contain titanium dioxide and we’ll phase out the rest by June 2017. A couple vendors, including So Delicious (non-dairy creamers) and Daiya (non-dairy “cheese”) already are phasing out titanium dioxide.

Food-grade titanium dioxide often is produced with nanotechnology, which is not regulated and nano materials are not labeled. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned manufacturers that products of nanotechnology have novel properties and should not be assumed to be safe. The FDA has recommended manufacturers test their nano products for safety.


Greek yogurt nutrition

Thank you for the service you provide the community by caring about the ingredients in the products you sell. I’m fond of the Chobani Greek yogurt, as one serving (150 grams) contains 13 grams of protein. Since each serving comes in its own plastic tub, I thought I’d reduce my waste footprint by buying it in larger sizes, so I bought a couple of 32-ounce (908 grams) tubs of Zoi Greek yogurt, as that appeared to be the closest comparable option.

I was surprised to learn that not only is one serving of Zoi larger (8 ounces, 227 grams), but it also has less protein (9 grams)! I don’t see any significant difference in the ingredients, and both brands contain live active cultures. How does Chobani deliver more than double the protein per gram relative to Zoi?

— Prem

PCC replies: Great question! Chobani is made from low-fat and nonfat milk while Zoi uses a mixture of whole milk and cream — resulting in more fat and less protein per serving. The amount of liquid that’s strained out of the yogurt varies by brand, which also impacts the nutritional profile.


Added sugar in processed foods

I’ve been learning more and more about the negative health effects of added sugar. I’ve been making an effort to read labels and look for products that have lower amounts or no added sugar. I know PCC strives to offer healthy choices for its consumers. I recently went to your Redmond store looking to buy jars of organic spaghetti sauce (any flavor) and was disappointed I could not find sauces that did not contain added sugar.

I was especially disappointed to see how much added sugar Field Day organics has in their sauces. I was originally so happy to see Field Day Organics expanding their offering. It would be great if PCC tried to get some lower-sugar or no-sugar-added organic tomato sauces.

— Anonymous

PCC nutrition educator Nick Rose replies: A good portion of the total sugar in pasta sauce comes from the tomatoes. Some but not all brands add sugars to their recipes.

To determine if a sauce contains added sugar, look for words such as “sugar,” “dried cane syrup,” “agave” or “glucose” on the ingredient panel. Starting in July 2018, food labels will be required to list total sugar and added sugar — making it easier to see if there’s added sugars in processed foods.

Brands at PCC that do not add sugar to their marinara sauces include: Amy’s (organic), Eden (organic), Muir Glen pizza sauce (organic), Dom Pomodoro, Lucini, Maitz Catalan, Mezetta and Monte Bene. Check the labels for sugar in the list of ingredients because brands may have some flavors without added sugars and some flavors with added sugar.


Oats in the bakery

Are the oats used in your bakery items, such as the Nut and Honey Clusters, gluten-free oats?

— Anonymous

PCC replies: No, we do not use certified gluten-free oats in any of our bakery items. While oats are gluten-free naturally, people who are allergic to gluten cannot consider most oats gluten-free because they’re typically processed in facilities that handle other grains containing gluten. Certified gluten-free oats are sold at PCC in the grocery aisles.


PCC’s customer service

I would like to give a big thank you to the staff from the deli and taco bar at the Columbia City PCC. My dad recently was diagnosed with diabetes and transitioning to a much more restrictive diet has been very difficult for him. He has been able to eat whatever he wants his whole life without any noticeable health issues until now.

At the deli, you went above and beyond helping him find low-sodium meat. At the taco bar, you knew what was in everything and took the time to work with my dad to make sure he was picking out items he could eat. You made him feel comfortable asking all the questions he did and took your time with him.

This diet is all new for him and I know he feels like a pain asking so many questions. I want to make sure the folks who work there are recognized for their great service! Thank you!

— Kaite

I just wanted to thank your Issaquah store employees for providing the best customer service. Every employee is beyond helpful and friendly. I want to recognize Andres from produce for his exceptional customer service. I also would like to thank Rebecca from cashiering. She introduced me to Forager cashew milk when I became vegan. They both are really good at suggesting new foods to try.

I usually buy 100-percent organic foods and Leif showed me there are wines made from organic grapes and it changed my world! Andrew from the deli helped me preorder my favorite dish (Curried Tofu Cashew Salad) and now I preorder it all the time. Not only do I appreciate the variety of vegan and organic foods at PCC, I especially appreciate the outstanding customer service these individuals provide every day. They’re the reasons why I only grocery shop at PCC. They’ve created a PCC customer for life.

— Rachel


Glyphosate in food

I purchased some Remlinger Farms frozen mixed berries that weren’t marked organic, so I called Remlinger and asked if there were any pesticides used on the berries.

The person I spoke with said pesticides weren’t sprayed on the berries but maybe on the soil. So I asked if they use Roundup (glyphosate) and she said she wasn’t sure.

Does PCC have some kind of policy minimum requirements, such as not allowing food or soil that may have been treated with Roundup?

— R.B.

PCC replies: Remlinger is not an organic brand and only organic standards ensure no toxic pesticides, such as glyphosate, are used. To avoid glyphosate and other harmful pesticides, look for the green and white USDA certified organic logo on packages. Ninety-five percent of PCC’s fresh produce is organic. We also sell certified organic frozen berries from other brands: Cascadian Farm, La Pierre, Woodstock, NW Wild Berries and Earthbound.

FYI, glyphosate never would be sprayed directly on berries or other plants (unless they’re genetically engineered) because it would kill the leaves and fruiting process. Fungicides or insecticides, however, may be applied directly to soil to be taken up by the roots into a plant systemically and residues may remain in a food after harvest. We always encourage buying organic for human and environmental health.


PCC water

Can you tell me if your bulk water has the fluoride removed (or reduced)?

I wasn’t sure if it’s just filtered or has additional treatment.

— Anonymous

PCC replies: Many PCC customers bring in one-, three- or five-gallon bottles and fill them at PCC’s self-serve stations with Custom Pure filtered water.

Custom Pure uses a six-stage process to remove chlorine, fluoride, lead and other metals, nitrates, sulfates, asbestos, pesticides and more.

Water quality is monitored and filters are changed as often as once a week, depending on volume processed, to ensure purity.

PCC and Custom Pure also filter the water for produce misters, drinking fountains and the deli espresso bar.

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