News bites, March 2017

This article was originally published in March 2017

New seafood guidelines for pregnant women

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have updated the advice for pregnant women’s seafood consumption, listing more than 60 species in a chart that ranks fish as a “best choice,” “good choice” or “choice to avoid.” Expectant mothers long have been warned to stay away from shark, King mackerel, swordfish and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, but now there are three new species on the “avoid” list: marlin, orange roughy and bigeye tuna. The guidelines also say that a serving size should be 4 ounces for an adult and 2 ounces for children aged 4 to 7. (FDA)

“Transitional” organic certification

Two years after PCC prompted a national discussion, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) now is accepting applications from certifiers to operate a “Transitional” certification program for producers on their way to certified organic status. In a personal testimony in 2015, PCC told USDA that a transitional label would be good for farmers, retailers and consumers who want to help grow the supply chain. Transitional foods typically are sold at a mid-price point between organic and conventional, helping offset the risks to farmers in transitioning to organic methods. (USDA)

Monsanto, EPA cover up cancer review

Monsanto and officials within the EPA are fighting legal efforts aimed at exploring Monsanto’s influence over regulatory assessments of the key chemical in the company’s Roundup herbicide. The revelations are contained in a series of filings in a federal court of appeals brought by more than 50 people suing Monsanto. Plaintiffs claim they or their loved ones developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after exposure to Roundup, and that Monsanto has spent decades covering up cancer risks linked to the chemical. (The Huffington Post)

More room for organic animals

It took years of heated debate, but the National Organic Program finally decided how much living space an organic chicken should have. The new rules fall short of many organic consumer expectations, allowing roughly one to one-and-a-half square feet of living space indoors and 2 square feet outdoors. They also require “vegetative cover” on half the ground outdoors and restrict tail docking in cattle and pigs, and mulesing of sheep. Phase-in could be five to seven years. (USDA)

Glyphosate and liver disease

Minute quantities of glyphosate (aka Roundup) caused fatty liver disease in rats, according to a study from Kings College, London. It prompted the lead author to call on regulators to rethink use of Roundup on farms and the risk to humans caused by residues in food. The condition linked to the weedkiller is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which usually is found in people who are overweight or obese. Recent research shows that levels of residues end up in the human diet in many foods from breakfast cereals to cookies. (Daily Mail UK)

Consumer views on food and diet

According to new research from Mintel, Americans have interesting views about diet and food: less than half (42 percent) think their diet is healthy, less than 15 percent trust “healthy” claims on products, and only 23 percent believe the U.S. Dietary Guidelines are valid. Consumers widely are avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and sugar, and almost half (43 percent) are avoiding artificial sweeteners. Almost half view genetically engineered (GE) foods as not suitable to eat. Protein, fiber and whole grains are highly desired. (Mintel)

Aquaculture planned for Pacific

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is creating a plan to manage commercial fish farms in federal waters, the area of ocean from three to 200 miles offshore, around Hawaii and other Pacific islands. The program is similar to one recently implemented by NOAA in the Gulf of Mexico. The farms in the Gulf and the Pacific would join the few aquaculture operations in U.S. waters, though there are smaller operations in state waters close to shore. (Hawaii Tribune Herald)

First GE apple slices on the market

A small amount of GE Golden Delicious sliced apples grown by Okanagan Specialty Fruits went on sale in 10 Midwest stores this winter. The company has orchards in British Columbia and 85,000 trees at an undisclosed location in Washington state, with hundreds of thousands more slated to be planted in the next two years. GE Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Fuji varieties have been approved in the United States and Canada but only Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths have been planted long enough to produce fruit in commercial quantities by fall. (Capital Press)

France bans pesticides

France has banned pesticides from all public green spaces, effective this past January 1. The ban covers public forests, parks and gardens, but pesticides are still allowed in cemeteries. The new law also stipulates that pesticides will be prohibited in private gardens in 2019. (

Antibiotics in livestock

The FDA announced in January that it made progress on curbing the misuse of antibiotics by changing instructions on labels for medicine used in livestock, but the promise falls short. The FDA says it’s eliminating language on labels that says antibiotics can be used for growth promotion but it leaves behind a massive loophole in not addressing “disease prevention” in the unsanitary living conditions on factory farms. Antibiotic sales in the livestock industry continue to rise, according to FDA’s own recent report. (FDA)

Also in this issue

Wild for Weleda

For nearly a century, the German skincare company Weleda has pioneered clean body care with wild-crafted, organic and biodynamic ingredients from its own gardens, fair trade farms and cooperatives around the world. The company’s meticulous sourcing and attention to detail results in products that are game-changers in the pursuit of healthy, soft skin.

Staff picks

Some PCC staff are on a health kick this month, chomping down PCC Deli's Veggie Collard Wrap, while others are indulging in the deli's cheddar biscuits or rich porter beer from Portland. Others love a non-dairy cheese that will surpass even cheese-lovers' expectations. Pick these all up next time you're in our stores, and don't miss new organic stars in the produce department: local purple sprouting broccoli and juicy Larry Anne plums.

Washington wine

With its arid, high desert climate and singular geology, Washington is becoming a major player in world-class wines — and the best is yet to come. It's our pleasure at PCC to collaborate with some of the most passionate producers, whose wines express the vividly unique flavor of our state in every bottle. Help us celebrate Taste Washington month by raising a glass (or three)!