Letters to the editor, September 2017

This article was originally published in September 2017

The Dirty Dozen?

For many years I looked forward to you printing the list of produce that has high levels of pesticide residues (“Dirty Dozen”) and produce that has minimal levels (“Clean 15”).

The last time I recall you printing this, there was a note that there was quite a lot of pushback from conventional growers, resisting the printing of this list. Since then, unless I missed an issue (and I have subscribed for 30 years or so), I have not seen this list printed.

I searched the internet and did find the most recent lists. I request that you place them in your publication without fail — many shoppers depend on these lists to make best use of tight budgets.

— E. Sun

PCC replies: We’re glad you easily found the latest Dirty Dozen list online. The main reason we don’t print it — or the Clean 15 list — is that we consider many environmental and social impacts of pesticides that go well beyond individual intake by consumers. We emphasize organic for carbon sequestration and much healthier soils, cleaner water, healthier marine life and pollinators, and healthier farmers and farmworkers for future generations. We sell hardly any non-organic produce because of the increased environmental and social impacts.

You’re right that non-organic interests have demanded for years that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) stop publishing the lists. The lists are based on EWG’s analysis of sample testing by the Department of Agriculture. This year, the Dirty Dozen includes strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes. Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations than other produce.

Grilling and chilling

“Grilling and chilling: The surprising benefits of cooking food over fire” (June Sound Consumer) — about grilling foods and fortifying mushrooms in the sun and what the grill char lines are — is an amazing and informative article!

I am a medical student who just beat stage-3 cancer and PCC is a big help with my ongoing quest for health. Even with all my years of education, I still learn so much from you! Thank you!

— anonymous


I am a longtime PCC member and shop at View Ridge and I have a few questions. I’ve been making kefir with the granules I purchase at PCC. I use ultra-pasteurized 1% milk. Although I bring it to a boil, I wonder if doing so is necessary since it’s ultra-pasteurized.

Also, recently I read that ultra-pasteurized milk should not be used for kefir and that whole milk — not reduced-fat milk — should be used. What are your recommendations?

I’ve been using reduced fat milk because I have high cholesterol. Thank you for your help. Keep up the good work!

— anonymous

PCC replies: The Omega Nutrition brand of kefir granules sold at PCC recommends boiling milk prior to making kefir for a thicker texture and also for food safety. Boiling helps create a thicker consistency by evaporating some of the water from the milk and by denaturing proteins to facilitate the thickening process. Kefir-making utilizes bacteria and yeasts, so the boiling step also ensures you kill pathogenic bacteria that might contaminate the process.

The Omega Nutrition kefir grains should enable you to make kefir from any type of pasteurized milk. It also should work with milk that isn’t boiled, as well as coconut, soy, hemp or rice milk alternatives.

There are many different opinions on what type of milk is best for people with high cholesterol. The American Heart Association advocates reduced fat (or skim) dairy products because more saturated fat in whole milk means our bodies will produce more “bad” LDL cholesterol. Some consumers, however, choose whole milk products, in part because whole milk is more satiating and they’re satisfied with a smaller serving.

Labeling added sugar

With recommendations from the American Heart Association to limit added sugar to 6 to 9 grams a day, and more information pointing to added sugars as the cause of the diabetes epidemic, I would like to encourage PCC to start publishing the added sugars (in grams) in deli items so consumers can begin to make informed choices about sugar intake.

I recently attended a medical metabolic summit at Swedish Hospital where international experts, including Dr. Lustig, explained how added sugar causes fatty liver disease, then metabolic syndrome, and eventually diabetes because those sugars are not attached to fiber and therefore are absorbed through the walls of the lower intestine where the sugar molecule cleaves into fructose and glucose. The liver is the only organ that can process fructose, becomes easily overwhelmed, and turns that fructose into fat, specifically visceral fat and fatty liver.

When sugars are eaten in their natural form in fresh fruits, the fiber slows down digestion in the small intestine where good bacteria work with the fiber to create a healthy gel layer and slow absorption, so the microbiome can consume more of the sugar rather than our livers.

I was blown away by the obfuscation of the sugar industry (“The Truth about Big Sugar,” July Sound Consumer). I was trained that a calorie is a calorie — calories in and calories out — that it’s a matter of individual responsibility. It turns out this was a marketing campaign by the sugar industry to pull attention away from the role of sugar in heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and fatty liver and that sugar intake is a better measure of risk than weight!

As a medical provider with 19 years in health care, I am very grateful for all the ways PCC has safeguarded consumer health and ask that you not wait for the FDA and make this labeling change now in as many ways as you can.

— Auky van Beek, PA-C

Dairy-free, soy-free desserts

We have many allergies and we’re hoping to find a dessert that will work for a birthday party. What do you offer that’s soy- and dairy-free?

— name withheld upon request

PCC replies: We have several desserts that don’t contain soy or dairy ingredients and could be popular at your party! We recently switched to chocolate chips and a vegan alternative to butter that’s made with sunflower lecithin (instead of soy lecithin) — so now we have many more options for shoppers who have food allergies.

We have several cakes made without dairy or soy that you could special order, including vegan carrot cake with vanilla frosting, vegan chocolate cake, and vegan and wheat-free chocolate or vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. All are available as 8- or 10-inch round cakes, half-sheet cakes, and regular or mini cupcakes by the dozen.

We also have several cookies and bars that could meet your needs: Harvest fruit bars, kasha energy bars, vegan chocolate brownies, vegan chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies, vegan blueberry crisp, and nut and honey clusters.

However, be aware that the facility where these foods are made from scratch is not certified allergen-free, so we cannot guarantee against traces of allergens, such as dairy or soy, that may be used in other recipes.

Trans fat in buttermilk?

Why does the Grace Harbor Farms buttermilk contain trans-fat but other brands do not?

— Jordan Diment

PCC replies: It’s an observant question! The answer is that all dairy products contain naturally occurring traces of trans fatty acids. They’re produced in the digestive tract of grazing animals, with the greatest quantities in 100-percent grass-fed, whole milk dairy. They’re higher in organic, whole milk dairy because organic dairy cows consume more fresh grass than conventional cows.

Foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans-fats per serving are not required legally to list them in nutrition facts, so most brands round down — to show “0 grams.” Grace Harbor Farms provides the ultimate in transparency for consumers by including the fractional trans-fat content.

There’s some speculation among nutritionists that naturally occurring trans-fats from grazing animals might offer some health benefits in preventing diabetes and heart disease. There is no clear consensus, however, on whether or not they’re beneficial. The American Heart Association’s position is that “ruminant trans fatty acids have similar adverse effects on blood lipids” as the industrially produced fats.

PCC does not sell any foods with artificial trans fats created by hydrogenation of liquid vegetable oils.

Excellent service

Saturday morning, I had the most terrific shopping experience at the Greenlake Village PCC. Victor, in produce, was so welcoming and understanding. He took time from his task of stocking fresh vegetables to tell me a story from his childhood in Ukraine and he listened to my story about a horse named Victor at the Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center. I so enjoyed our conversation, that in addition to the delicious vegetables I purchased that morning, I felt like my soul had been rekindled with kindness.

Amazon may buy Whole Foods, but nothing will replace the sense of community I felt shopping at PCC on Saturday. Plus, PCC has the BEST fresh vegetables in town!

— Kari

Also in this issue

Nutritionists' picks

What’s in store: From Honeycrisp apples, Organic Flavor Grenade pluots to Organic Keitt mangoes to name just a few, PCC has the best varieties of local, organic produce at the peak of ripeness. Also don’t miss our nutritionists’ picks!

Save the date

The PCC community is core to who we are as a co-op. From our farmers and ranchers to our store staff and members, like you, the relationships we share are what connect us all.

PCC exclusives

Great wine has a sense of place — terroir — and at PCC, we're committed to bringing the flavor of that place straight to your wineglass.