Letters to the editor, October 2017

Sound Consumer October 2017

strong organic standards

You might be interested to know I took action for organic standards (October cover story). Here’s the text I sent, mentioning to Rep. Rick Larsen, Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell that PCC is a leader for them to consult:

“Please work to strengthen USDA organic standards. Do not allow them to be eroded by large factory farms and Big Food corporations buying up organic labels and working to weaken standards in their favor. I am concerned by two things: the Trump administration’s anti-organic stance evidenced by cozying up to large industry demands, and a recent report that Congress may ‘reform’ the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) so it no longer can be used to address problems with industrial ‘organic’ chicken, egg and dairy farms.

“I buy certified organic for health and environmental reasons. Buying organic is the best way to support farmers who have given up pesticides and genetic engineering in favor of regenerative agriculture practices that include raising animals on pasture. I learned from The Washington Post that regulations requiring organic animals to have access outdoors are not being enforced and that the Trump administration has delayed rules intended to correct this.

“The biggest losers in this situation are the conscientious family farmers who are forced to compete with the worst factory farms. Please resist the efforts of companies like Herbruck’s Poultry (Michigan) and Cal-Maine (Mississippi) to win your support with lobbying and campaign contributions. USDA organic standards should be driven by consumer expectations, not the business interests of factory farms.

“Our own PCC Community Markets is a leader nationwide in developing organic standards and participates deeply with NOSB in refining and developing policy to insure organic standards remain. They would be an excellent touchstone for you to consult on these issues.”

— Janis Swalwell

PCC replies: Thank you for speaking up to our decision-makers in D.C. We are fortunate in Washington to have Rep. Larsen and Sens. Murray and Cantwell as good organic defenders.

We encourage PCC members and consumers to send your comments on organic standards to nosh@ams.usda.gov.

Farmworkers, regenerative ag, honey

Thank you for a great August edition of the Sound Consumer. Articles such as “The high cost of deporting farm workers” and “Restoring soil with regenerative agriculture” are so appreciated.

But it was also a small report in Soil & Sea that piqued my interest. Part of the report stated the company, Glorybee, delivered 303,682 pounds of product by bike! I assume this was all within their vicinity of Eugene, Oregon, but I am wondering. Their website had no mention of this feat. Your bike riding member,

— Mary Ann Schroeder

Glorybee representative Jandyra Dubofsky replies: Thank you for your interest in GloryBee! We deliver to many of our customers in Eugene by bike and some of our Portland customers, as well. The GloryBee truck delivers Portland orders to a bike delivery company based in Portland, that then delivers individual orders to customers. We feel that every little bit helps the environment, especially when dealing with city traffic. If you know of any similar companies based in your area, we would love to look into a similar plan in Seattle.

Low sugar choices?

Thank you very much for the article “The bitter truth about Big Sugar” (July). I have a general comment about the frustration of not finding low-sugar products at local grocery stores. It is a constant source of frustration for me. Yes, juices could be watered down, but it is more of an issue in other items, like yogurt.

I would rather have a high fat and low sugar yogurt but most are low fat and high sugar. Breads usually have added sugar, 2-4 grams per slice. Way, way too much sugar is added to many items than should be. I wish more products would be available where one could add their own sugar, if so desired.

Thank you for the good work, sincerely,

— Ute Philippi

PCC replies: We always appreciate reader comments about what you like and are looking for and we’ll share your comments with others here. We’re happy to say that we offer numerous brands of yogurt with full fat content and no added sugar.

We also sell numerous breads without added sugars.

National GE labeling

Thanks for your GMO food labeling update in the recent Sound Consumer. It did prompt me to send the USDA comments.

— Janet, Longtime member and organic supporter

PCC replies: We appreciate that you took the time and made the effort. We understand that individual consumer comments are valuable.

Lead in baby food

There has been talk in the news that 20 percent of baby food samples contain high levels of lead and that many baby food pouches and their ingredients are now being made abroad.

Can you confirm where the baby food in pouches that you carry comes from and where they’re being prepared and made? This is of concern right now for many parents but I didn’t see any info related on any of the pouches we buy from PCC. Thanks!

— Ava

PCC replies: We are taking the findings of lead in baby food very seriously as a high priority. As soon as we learned of the Environmental Defense analysis, we asked the brands we sell about their testing protocols and the levels, if any, found in their foods. (The ED report did not disclose the name of any brands tested.) We are still gathering replies.

Based on research and findings from the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we’re asking vendors to test to a limit of detection in parts per billion. We’ll scrutinize vendor replies to determine how best we can help protect the youngest consumers among us.

Each brand is likely to rely on many locations for sourcing. What matters, ultimately, is the level of lead, if any, in a finished food. If you call brands directly for information, please share the replies.

Many “meat” alternatives

With every passing year there seem to be more reasons to stop eating meat, the most recent being the contribution of livestock farming to greenhouse gas emissions. Several years ago, I was able to transition away from eating land animals with the help of PCC’s meat alternatives. As I learned to cook these, my hope was to prepare them so convincingly that I wouldn’t have to explain to company that the “meat” in the dish I was serving was not really meat.

If I marinate and grill Quorn Chik’n Cutlets, for example, and throw them in a pasta dish, no one notices the difference, and Upton’s Italian-sausage style seitan on a pizza is plenty convincing. There are many options, however, that are available at other stores but not at PCC — for example, Beyond Meat products.

I have looked at ingredient lists for some of the unstocked products and cannot find conflicts with PCC’s list of acceptable ingredients. So I’m curious about the reasons for their absence from the shelves and your thoughts about the place of meat alternatives generally in PCC’s product profile. I recently discovered Vegan Haven, in the University District, which stocks a dizzying array of options that will keep me busy experimenting for some time but it seems odd to be supplementing my PCC shopping in this regard when PCC so often leads the way on such fronts. Many thanks,

— Paul Kidder

PCC Nutrition Educator Nick Rose replies: Thank you for the thoughtful question about meat alternatives at PCC. First, here’s a list of some of our most popular (frozen) meat alternatives: Hilary’s Eat Well burgers; Amy’s Veggie burgers; Sunshine Burgers; Gardenburgers; Boca chicken nuggets, patty, etc.; Gardein Beefless Ground; Tofurky veggie burgers; Field Roast; Quorn chicken style nuggets, patty, etc.; Nate’s Meatballs; various frozen entrees; and vegan “fish” sticks.

I looked at the brands you mentioned and while their ingredients appear to “match” our list of acceptable ingredients at PCC, our standards also state “New items with ingredients that are high-risk for being genetically engineered (GE) must be organic or Non-GMO Project Verified. If a company cannot provide confirmation, PCC will not carry the product.” Some alternative meat products also contain carrageenan, caramel color and algal flour — additional ingredients we have been phasing out of all products for various reasons.

Personally I prefer the Sunshine Burgers and Hilary’s “World’s Best” veggie burger — both made with whole beans, grains, seeds and veggies. There’s growing evidence that such whole food ingredients are healthier for people than processed soy or pea protein isolates. Of course, you can make your own veggie burgers and we have several recipes on our website.

We appreciate your efforts to choose foods that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are delighted that you feel PCC often “leads the way” in supporting shoppers’ efforts to eat healthier for personal and planetary health.

Related Reading

Organic at a crossroads

Organic is at a crossroads. It has become a $47 billion industry with a very good process in place for setting standards that are strong, consistent and meaningful. But U.S. production of organic food is not keeping pace with demand, which means more organic food is imported to fill the gap.

Soil & Sea: Reports from our producers

Farmers are planting more GMO sweet corn-on-the-cob than previously thought.

Saving Wild Salmon

The only good outcome of the massive escape of Atlantic salmon from net pens near Cypress Island is that residents, state agencies, and politicians finally may be awakened to why marine feedlots must be banned from public waters.