Letters to the editor, December 2017
This article was originally published in December 2017
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I’m a big PCC fan! I comparison shop on Amazon, Vitacost, Fred Meyer and Whole Foods. By shopping your sales and using my once a month 10% shop to buy most proteins, bulk, packaged and frozen foods, I consistently save over other stores.
Your kid fruit policy means a lot to me and my children. I love the smiles on their faces when they run over to show me an enormous peach or to tell me cherries are on sale.
— Joanna G.
Can you tell me why the produce at PCC is better than other stores, even the more high-end grocery stores? I have heard that you can buy different grades of produce but PCC seems to be higher than everyone else.
I love PCC for all the vetting of products you do, but the freshness and tastiness of your produce is the #1 reason I prioritize shopping at your store.
— Sarah C.
PCC replies: We’re so glad you noticed! We agree not all produce is equal, even organic produce. The differences in appearance and flavor have to do with who the farmer is and their methods. We seek out growers for the high quality of what they produce. For instance, our Del Rey avocados are larger and have the best texture and flavor of any we’ve tasted. They’ve been grown, picked and sold by three generations – all family-owned-and-operated since 1969. Nash simply has his heart in his soil and loves growing food. Our heirloom apples, grown at Heirloom Orchards in Oregon, were bred specifically for their flavor.
Mayra Velazquez de Leon, President and CEO, GROW bananas, replies: Not only do we focus on best practices in the growing process, from the nurturing of small plants through harvesting, but we also pick the bananas to fill orders from the stores. The bananas are in markets days after harvest compared to two to four weeks for other bananas. This makes them fresher and taste better. Organic growing, along with the freshness of the product and the growing region, makes our bananas sweeter.
All dirt is not equal
I would like to comment on “The Dirt Cure” article. Ms. Shetreat-Klein correctly mentions that we have become ‘too clean’ as a culture and we are consequently not exposed to as many ‘germs’ or pathogens as in the past for our species. Yes, our immune system is adaptive and ‘exposure’ is one of the methods in which our immune system becomes broader based. I do, however, have a strong concern about the simplicity with which that article addressed soil.
There can be heavy metal, industrial contaminants, pesticide residue and dangerous components in the soil. Lead paints were used for a very long time and most certainly the dusty residue of that will be found in soils around many homes and buildings. Lead, as most people know, is a strong neurotoxin and children and the elderly are particularly impacted. Lead paint residue is one of many serious contaminants of soil.
There’s no way I would be encouraging my child to be handling dirt, so I want to reply and say: it’s not so simple. Dirt is not always simply dirt. There is a possibility for very dangerous residues to be in dirt. ASARCO in Tacoma finally was shut down years ago. Why? It spewed arsenic throughout not only Tacoma but also Vashon and West Seattle. It is in the dirt. Dirt is not safe.
— Patricia Davis, Admiral District Seattle
PCC replies: Thank you for your astute observations. You raise important issues that serve as important reminders of what ASARCO left behind. I think we all would agree that all soils and dirt are not equivalent, but you put a sharp point on that in your remarks and our article did not address them explicitly. We also never should forget that the 12-year fight for good national organic standards (implemented in 2002) focused on rules to enhance soil health and “continual improvement.”
I love your stores and am a longtime member. I also love PCC hummus but cringe every time I have to wash the plastic container.
It’s time to use biodegradable containers!! Or somehow allow consumers to bring in their own containers? Something has to change here. Thanks for listening to your customers.
PCC replies: The plastic problem troubles us, too. It’s a monumental challenge for the entire food industry, especially as the demand for convenient, ready-to-eat foods is increasing and usually entails packaging. We are not aware of any containers for hummus — or other shelf-stable wet foods — that truly are biodegradable. You’ll be glad to know we were able to switch a good share of our deli packaging to compostable options last year.
We wish we were allowed to let customers reuse containers from home, but Seattle-King County health officials have told us we may not. Their concern is that containers brought in from the outside pose a risk of contaminating foods in the deli case when they’re refilled. You may, however, bring in your own container and ask the delis to spoon deli salads onto a paper, then slide the food into your container after it’s weighed. We realize this really isn’t an efficient solution but it’s the best we can do for now.
Palm oil concerns
I was buying groceries last night and looked at Justin’s peanut butter. The “natural peanut butter” lists palm oil as the second ingredient. I was really surprised to see that and would hope you might consider not selling that peanut butter because it’s not considered a sustainable food and threatens the habitat of many endangered species. I am a fan of Justin’s but probably will not purchase those products because of the palm oil.
Please tell me that you don’t carry products made with palm oil. I’m sure you’re aware that rain forests and the animals that live in them are being devastated by deforestation in these regions.
— Ericka B.
PCC replies: We also are deeply concerned about deforestation and other impacts from palm oil production, and it’s on our quality standards work plan for action. We also are working with an industry effort called the Climate Collaborative that aims to remove commodity-driven deforestation from supply chains.
The reality is that palm oil is a bulk commodity and both certified and uncertified sources often are mixed during the journey from grower to consumer. The vast number of suppliers creates difficulty in tracking the origin of each batch, making it very difficult to set a wholly sustainable standard.
Justin’s certification “mass balance” is not the strongest. There are four levels under the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) criteria and “mass balance” means that some certified sustainable palm oil is mixed with uncertified, conventional palm oil. The RSPO admittedly is imperfect, but it’s a start. Without RSPO, no sustainable palm oil would exist!
For the freshest organic peanut (or almond) butter without added oil, you always can grind your own in our bulk departments.
There was an article in Sound Consumer (August) about the challenge of disposing of toxic whey byproducts from producing Greek yogurt. After a recent trip to Iceland, we switched over to the Siggy’s brand, which tastes more like skyr.
Does Siggy’s have the same problem with whey and are you also investigating them? Thanks a bunch.
— Carolyn Righi
Siggi’s Dairy, New York, replies: We appreciate your concern and are happy to let you know that the whey removed from our yogurts is fed through a digester to help create energy used to power the nearby dairies.
Irrigation from fracking?
I just got back from PCC Fremont intending to buy only non-California produce but found that many of the tags say the produce comes from Oregon and California.
Now that fracking wastewater has been used to irrigate crops in California, PCC should start separating the California “organic” produce from the organic produce grown in Washington, Oregon, Mexico, and wherever else true organic produce comes from. Because even though the USDA National Organic Program has provided no guidance, we all know that the cocktail of chemicals contained in fracking wastewater would render any soil irrigated with this water nonorganic.
Unless a California grower can assure PCC with soil test results that the crops grown in their soil meet the organic standards, that grower’s produce should be separated from the organic produce meeting those standards.
PCC replies: This is an important issue that we are monitoring. The pressure on California farmers to purchase “produced water” from gas and oil fracking operations is less than it was during the five-year drought that officially ended in April, but the practice existed before the drought and it continues.
The latest analysis by researchers from the FracTracker Alliance (2015) found 11 percent of all North American organic farms are in oil and gas “regions of concern” and this number is likely to increase to 15 or even 31 percent if shale plays and basins are exploited. 68-74 percent of these farms produce crops in states such as, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and California so the problem spans the United States.