Letters to the editor, November 2017

This article was originally published in November 2017

The PCC experience

On Saturday, I had an experience, which embodied the spirit of community that PCC’s new name reflects. At my suggestion, the activities director at my senior living facility planned an outing to PCC Edmonds on the day of the PCC Community Fair.

Most of the seniors where I live had never heard of PCC and the fair seemed like the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the wonderful organic produce PCC offers, as well as the organic, local dairy products, baked goods, and so on. I called John, the store manager, to ask if it would be possible to have someone give us a brief store tour and, despite it being an extremely busy day, he agreed. What a wonderful experience we had!

Drew, the assistant manager, generously gave us 45 minutes of his time to escort our slow moving group (walkers, wheelchairs) around the store, stopping frequently to explain things and give us samples of cheese, crackers, yogurt, as well as samples at the official “food tasting station” of the fair. The highlight was the pastry counter where staff cut up several delicious home-baked pastries for us to sample. Drew’s graciousness and generosity bowled us over — and we walked away feeling like we had been treated like royalty.

An enormous THANK YOU to PCC Edmonds and the entire PCC community that gave such a heartwarming experience to a group of seniors who were not members — and may never be members — but will never forget PCC!

— Kathleen Kinzel, PCC member since 1992

Saving wild salmon

In the October Sound Consumer, bullet points were included about how to “Help save wild salmon.” All were good ideas but perhaps the most efficacious one seems to have been left out. None of us, ever, should purchase Atlantic salmon here in the Puget Sound where it obviously is not native.

Of course, the intruder species is not for sale at PCC but it is widely available elsewhere in our area. When I encounter it in the fish department at other retailers, I ask the person behind the counter why it is for sale there when Atlantic salmon obviously doesn’t belong on the Pacific Coast. Most often the counterperson agrees but says that management wants to keep carrying it. If enough people challenge this idea, even profit-hungry management will get the idea.

— Don Fels

The dirt cure?

I was extremely glad to read Dr. Shetreat-Klein’s article, “The dirt cure, how our health depends on soil.” She provides information on how our immune systems depend on contact with the natural environment and how this can reduce afflictions like asthma and other auto-immune illnesses.

Tucked away near the end of her article is reference to the benefits of “forest bathing,” a practice of periodically immersing ourselves in the natural environment to reduce stress, get better sleep, and just feel better. The article spends time discussing the benefits for children, for the immune system is extra busy in very young children.

As an ecologist with a long history of volunteering in Seattle Parks and natural areas, I often have wished more people would bring their kids when they volunteer and that they would not volunteer just once but return again and again for their own health.

— Michael Marsh

Nutritional yeast is a supplement

I noticed that nutritional yeast, which is a mainstay of vegan diets as a stand-in for cheese, almost invariably is fortified with folic acid, despite the fact that folate appears in a number of foods consumed by people on a vegan diet, including legumes, green leafy vegetables and crucifers. I very easily can exceed the upper limit with one serving of a favorite recipe of mine for savory oatmeal and that upper limit doesn’t even address general concerns about folic acid and cancer but is based on other, unrelated considerations.

Is there some way you can offer nutritional yeast in bulk at your current good price without the questionable and generally unnecessary folic acid fortification?

— Craig Johnson

Nutrition Educator Nick Rose, M.S. replies: You’re correct that this product is heavily fortified with folic acid (and other B-vitamins) at surprising levels. We updated our bulk signs and online bulk food database to inform shoppers of the extremely high potency of this product.

There are no adverse effects associated with folate from food but large doses of synthetic folic acid should be avoided — especially by vegans. Consuming too much can mask other nutrient deficiencies (B-12, iron) and may lead to neurological complications. As you mentioned, there also is speculation that excessive folic acid may contribute to cancer risks.

The Institute of Medicine set the Upper Limit (greatest quantity to consume safely) for folic acid at 1,000 mcg/day for adults and 300 mcg/day for young children. Just one-and-a-half tablespoons of nutritional yeast provides 760 mcg folic acid. The amount of folic acid in this product is concerning, especially for children, or anyone taking a multivitamin or “B-complex” supplement.

PCC believes shoppers should be aware this product should be consumed as a supplement and not as a whole food. Consuming high doses of nutritional yeast once a week is not a concern but daily consumption is not recommended.

Added sugars

I was very appreciative of the Letter to the Editor (September) about “Labeling added sugar.” As a nurse, I was so happy to be educated by your member regarding the American Heart Association’s recommendations for consumption of added sugars. However, I wanted to write in with a correction.

The writer of the letter stated no more than 6-9 grams should be consumed. I was shocked to see it so low and I looked it up online to verify. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6-9 teaspoons of added sugar per day, or 25-36 grams.

I always learn a lot from reading Sound Consumer — both from PCC writers and from consumers/members. Thank you for providing such an interesting resource!

— anonymous

PCC replies: You are correct that the American Heart Association’s (AHA) guidelines are 6-9 teaspoons/day, not the 6-9 grams/day in the September letter. Thank you for pointing out this error! Many shoppers are confused by recommendations for added sugar.

The AHA recommendation is to reduce added sugar intake to 5 percent of total calories. Males generally consume more calories each day, so their 5 percent is expressed as the higher end of the “consumer friendly” recommendation of 6-9 teaspoons per day. This translates on food labels to 24-36 grams/day. They are the same, just expressed in different units.

Manufacturers soon will be required to declare added sugars in both grams and percent Dairy Value (DV) and many brands already are.

Although I appreciated the article on “Big Sugar” (July), it also struck me as ironic. It appeared a few months after Barbara’s Shredded Wheat — one of the few cereals without added sugar — was discontinued. On my last visit to PCC, I counted at least four different “flavors” of shredded wheat — all with added sugar. Other cereals offered in Chex form also contained added sugar.

I realize that shelf space is valuable and that it’s hard to argue with lower sales, or suppliers who might want all flavors be carried. I remember, however, when PCC considered it part of its mission to offer many alternatives to people trying to escape over-sweetened products. Is this no longer a strong consideration in stocking decisions?

— Karin Frey

PCC merchandiser, Scott Owen, replies: Thank you for the feedback. We discontinued the unsweetened shredded wheat some time ago because of weak sales. No added sugar is a consideration for us but sales are needed to keep it on the shelf. Unfortunately, we can’t stock every version of a product line. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Field Day questions

Could you please tell us about Field Day Organics? This brand seems to have appeared out of nowhere but offers products in all the packaged categories. I notice its prices are lower (sometimes substantially) than the established brands PCC has carried for years.

About all I know is it’s headquartered in that hotbed of organics, New Jersey. Who are they and do they have big money hidden partners?

— Ed Waldock

We shop at PCC for almost all our food needs. We are concerned about the Field Day products in that it is very hard to resist paying so much less for them. But we are concerned for the competing organic producers that are smaller and have provided organic food for many years (mega corporations versus smaller companies).

— anonymous

PCC replies: First, thank you for your loyal shopping habits and for thinking about smaller producers who have provided us organic foods through thick and thin for decades. We treasure them as primary champions for strong organic standards.

Field Day is a “private label” brand owned by a distributor, United Natural Foods, which contracts with manufacturers to produce what it wants, without owning or operating the manufacturing facilities itself. The decreased manufacturing cost is passed on to our shoppers through lower prices. Field Day is on the shelves at co-op grocers across the country and is a good option for customers who want high quality certified organic and “made with organic” foods but need to stretch a dime.

Organic products are growing faster than any other sector in grocery and we’ll continue to see the choices evolve. Field Day is just one example of many shifts. Some research says growth in private label brands has impacted some small and mid-size brands. PCC is committed to continuing support for small and mid-size brands while offering private label choices that make certified organic and “made with organic” food choices more affordable for all. We aim to offer the best variety of choices for shoppers to consider.

Also in this issue

Our co-op community, November 2017

Celebrate local businesses with Chinook Book! We will offer the books and cards for $5 off the retail price during the holidays.

Using your brain to eat better

Why do we feel full at the end of a meal and lose interest in eating more food? Most of us assume we experience fullness when there's no more room left in the stomach for food. Researchers beg to differ.

Board Report, November 2017

PCC's Board of Trustees is elected to represent the interests of co-op members. Hearing from members enhances the governance and ongoing betterment of the cooperative for members.