Letters to the editor, January 2018

This article was originally published in January 2018

Letters must be 250 words or fewer and include a name, address and daytime phone number. We reserve the right to edit. Please email letters to editor@pccmarkets.com.

Heirloom apples

Thank you for bringing heirloom apples to your stores again this year. Every fall I look forward to them. They are beautiful and crazy delicious, with a depth and complexity of flavor that is absent in apples that are bred for uniformity and aesthetics. My favorites are Orleans Reignette and Ashmead's Kernel. This year they've been especially good — and at a bargain price!

— Ann

Animal welfare

I read your November article on animal welfare and the November 14 decision date for USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. I could not find the up-to-date ruling online anywhere. Do you know where this issue is now?

Thank you,

— Anonymous

PCC replies: Thank you for your interest in animal welfare. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has delayed the new animal welfare rules in the national organic program again, for the third time. Implementation of the rule is now scheduled for May 2018.

The organic animal welfare rule is the result of 14 years of work by organic stakeholders originally published a year ago. The ruling was supposed to take effect last March 2017 but USDA delayed it and then re-opened the comment period last fall, indicating it may want to revise the rule or even revoke it altogether.

Please know that PCC Community Markets and 47,000 others submitted comments on USDA’s options, with more than 40,000 of the comments supporting implementation. The Organic Trade Association has filed a lawsuit against USDA seeking judicial review of the administration’s delay of the animal welfare rules. The lawsuit is pending. We will continue to keep you posted.

Smaller packages of meat?

I’m a loyal PCC customer and do 98 percent of our family’s food shopping at PCC. I love the fact that PCC labels organic, local, non-GMO products and I focus my food and other product purchases in those areas. It would be nice to be able to buy smaller packs of organic meat, since I only eat 2 to 3 ounces of meat at a meal. The larger packs cost me more and require a lot of repackaging at home.

I really value PCC (your buyers and staff are excellent) and feel very fortunate to have several PCCs within my personal shopping locale. I enjoy reading Sound Consumer articles and the letters and replies each month. I’m happy to let people know how much I personally value PCC and what it’s doing to promote and make available healthy, diverse food options, as well as all that PCC does to support local, organic and non-GMO farmers.

I also appreciate PCC’s careful vetting of vendor's product ingredients to ensure safe, healthy products for its customers. PCC’s discount days are so very helpful, particularly the extra discount days during the holidays. I’m grateful to have such a high-quality food store in my area.

— Mary Higgins

PCC replies: Thank you for your kind comments! We’re happy to hear you appreciate our standards, quality and service.

In terms of getting smaller packages of meats, we’ve shared your request with our meat merchandising team. While we know it would be the most convenient for you to find them in the case, we welcome you to ask for them if you don’t see them. Our meat staff are happy to break down larger packages into the size you want. Please ask!

Baby carrots

I’m trying to learn if the baby carrots I buy at your store contain chlorine to extend their shelf life. I have read that organic carrots are not treated the same. I’ve read elsewhere (Dr. Mercola) that they aren’t safe either. Please help clarify.

Thanks so much!

— Mary V.

PCC replies: Thanks for asking about the organic baby carrots we sell at PCC. Our contacts at Organically Grown Company, our organic produce distributor, tell us our organic baby carrots are rinsed in order to prevent bacterial contamination and to extend shelf life. For organic produce the level of chlorine in the rinse water has to be equal or less than the maximum allowed in municipal drinking water (4ppm or less), though this is not the case for conventional produce. This regulation is specified in the organic standards and auditors monitor this closely. There are no known adverse health effects associated with chlorine at these levels in rinsing organic carrots.

Ben & Jerry’s?

Organic Consumers Association did an independent lab test of 11 samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and 10 tested positive for glyphosate. Very low levels of glyphosate have been implicated in fatty liver disease, cancer tumors and kidney damage. According to the independent lab tests, one 8-ounce serving of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie contains enough glyphosate to give a 75-lb. child 120 percent of the daily dose of glyphosate required to trigger fatty liver disease.

Will you consider removing Ben & Jerry’s from your store until they can certify all their ice cream is organic?

Thank you,

— Barbara

PCC replies: Thank you for writing us about the discovery of glyphosate in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. PCC has not sold Ben & Jerry’s for some time.

We discontinued the Ben & Jerry’s brand because we simply don’t need them. We have other cleaner choices. We’re glad to have several brands of ice cream that are organic (prohibiting glyphosate). Other brands are locally made to meet the demands of shoppers who prefer to support local producers.

Live cultures?

Do the live cultures in kefir, yogurt, kombucha, probiotic supplements, etc. survive long enough to reach the intestine where they can do some good?

Thank you!

— Carolyn Boatsman

PCC replies: In general, yes, most strains of probiotic bacteria in foods and supplements can make it through the digestive system to help support the gut with good bacteria. However, each person’s microbiome is unique (like a fingerprint) and certain strains of probiotics are more likely to colonize one person’s gut than another’s.

Note that not all probiotics are meant to colonize; some are transitory and yet still have very specific benefits, such as the bacteria commonly found in yogurt. Some brands of supplements use enteric coating to ensure the bacteria make it to the intestine and aren’t destroyed by the acidic environment in the stomach. There is some evidence that enteric coating is helpful in increasing the amount of bacteria found in the gut; however, it isn’t always necessary.

Some general tips: Look for products labeled “probiotic,” not just “contains live cultures,” and look for products that list specific strains of bacteria — and multiple strains of bacteria, rather than a single strain. Kefir often contains more than a dozen strains; kombucha usually lists two. Supplements often list a CFU (colony forming unit) count of how many live, viable bacteria are in a product. This often is a guarantee of potency by the sell-by date.

Deli labeling

My husband and I have been PCC members for a number of years. We especially appreciate the choice and quality of food available at the deli counter.

With the re-branding, however, has come a reduction in the size of print on the labels in the deli case; the change in font also reduces readability. I rely on the labels to tell me whether the food I’m buying is gluten-free or contains ingredients that we need to avoid. The print is so small now that I cannot read them. Rather than have the staff read the ingredients to me, sadly I now avoid buying food from the deli unless I know from past experience that it is a “safe” food.

We can’t be the only people experiencing this, and it’s an easy fix – please help your customers (and increase your sales) by reverting the typeface to the previous size and font for the item cards in the deli case.

— E. Harris

PCC replies: Thank you for being PCC members, and for sharing your feedback with us on the deli signs. You weren’t alone. We heard from many members that the font on the deli signs was too small. As a result, we’ve increased the size of the sign in the deli and the size of the font to make the print easier to read. We also took this opportunity to add allergens to the signs in the deli case. This is another common request we get from members, and we were happy to offer this added level of transparency.

Dog safety

I wish to thank PCC staff for taking remarkably prompt and protective action regarding a food safety issue. I sent PCC a link to the FDA that noted that 68 dogs had died as a result of consuming bone treats, with no particular brand better than others. Here is the link: www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm208365.htm.

I have four large dogs who love bones, and I erroneously thought these treats were sterilized or made more safe than plain old femurs from the butcher. Wrong! So, thank you for agreeing to remove this product. I hope that the meat department makes affordable fresh dog bones available. My daughter is a vet, and the “bone controversy” is a hot item in her world because all vets have seen perforated esophagus or other dire results from dogs chewing on bones. At some level it is a personal decision, but at least the expensive prepackaged treats with known dangers can be removed.

Take care,

— Judy

Related Reading

Organic certification of hydroponics continues

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