Letters to the editor, February 2018

This article was originally published in February 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.

Thank you

A friend from Bellingham and his wife come to Seattle for cancer treatment once a week. They stop for a meal at Greenlake Village PCC’s deli before and after each treatment. The food that you prepare with such love and great quality is medicine for both the patient and his caregiver. Thank you so much for giving them and us the opportunity to improve our health with such wonderful real food. PCC rocks! Special thanks to the deli staff and all other employees.

— Cindy Thomas

“Generic” store brand labels?

I’ve been a member of PCC for more than 15 years and shop at Kirkland PCC. I enjoy seeing all the local brands that represent the vibrant local farm, dairy and ranch communities in our area. Recently I noticed the introduction of the PCC brand for many of these fresh products, which surprised me for two reasons. First, PCC promotes itself as a supporter of “local” food providers. Second, PCC engages shoppers to support local farming through purchase of local products.

PCC shoppers have had a connection with local farmers, dairy and ranchers through the labeling of fresh products that identify our local providers. We have been lucky and we have enjoyed learning about these farmers and ranchers and choosing our favorite brands. Some folks will even go to the producers’ websites to learn more about their stories. Yes, I’ve been guilty.

However, the PCC brand is generic. It seems to be the reverse of the local mission that has been touted by PCC over these many, many years, and for which it has engaged so many of its shoppers. By obscuring the source of fresh items, PCC is severing the connection between the local farmer and the local shopper.

This turn of events makes me sad. I have relied on PCC being my “local” grocery store where I could buy “local” fresh products, engage with the “local” food sources by seeing their names and locations on their labels.

I hope you might consider removing the PCC label and continuing to let local producers’ labels remain on their products.

— Maura Roberts

PCC replies: We do celebrate the producers of our private label on our packaging. For example, if you look at the back of the frozen blueberries you’ll find Mark LaPierre’s story and on the top of the yogurt we share the story of Pure Eire. Including these stories was a very conscious decision because we want to be transparent about where we source the items for our PCC brand and we want to give the producers the credit they deserve. This is very different from other private labels that don’t disclose where the products come from.

Additionally, our priority with the PCC label is to source products that meet the highest quality standards and are local, when possible. Our yogurt is a great example of this. Pure Eire is the only non-GMO, organic, grass-fed and animal welfare certified yogurt in the nation! They are a wonderful producer and we want to support them. Bringing them on as our PCC label has allowed them to grow their business beyond what they were able to do on their own. In fact, we helped to fund their expansion by helping them purchase needed equipment, which truly speaks to what PCC is about.

The only PCC label that does not indicate a producer is our organic PCC milk. The reason is that while the milk is from local organic dairies, it, like all milk, is pooled. As a result, though we know that all our milk is from Washington or Oregon, we aren’t able to indicate the precise farms it comes from.

Our private label story is really unique and one we can all be proud of.

Nutritional yeast: folate vs. folic acid

In reading the Letters to the Editor in November’s Sound Consumer I was flabbergasted to learn that there are strong indications that large portions of nutritional yeast, including man-made folic acid, “should be avoided” due to potential issues such as neurological complications and possibly the risk of cancer.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 41 years and nutritional yeast is a huge staple of my diet that I’d rather not let go of. I did some web research and learned that folate is a natural product whereas folic acid, which is added to nutritional yeast, is a manmade product. Is there a nutritional yeast product with naturally occurring folate available for PCC consumers like myself?

Thanks so much,

— Anonymous

PCC replies: Folate is a B complex vitamin that has long been recognized as a key nutrient in human health. Not consuming enough folate can have devastating effects, ranging from birth defects to blood diseases and possibly even cancers. There is no known risk of toxicity from excessive naturally occurring folate from foods. This is good news since the diets highest in folate tend to be those highest in vegetables, legumes, and other highly desirable foods that belong in most healthy meal plans.

You are correct that fortified foods (including nutritional yeast) use a synthetic form of folic acid that is biologically different than the folate found in foods and has sparked controversy in recent years. Mandatory fortification of wheat flour with folic acid has been required since 1998 in the U.S. and successfully has reduced the prevalence of neural tube defects.

As we previously reported, large doses of synthetic folic acid should be avoided. We define “large doses” as greater than 1,000 mcg/day — the upper limit for this nutrient as established by the National Academy of Medicine. We updated our bulk signs and published the letter on nutritional yeast to be transparent with our shoppers that a serving of nutritional yeast contains 760 mcg folic acid, close to this upper limit.

Nutritional yeast is a staple food in many vegan and vegetarian diets, although some might not realize the high levels of folic acid (and B-12) are the result of fortification rather than being naturally present in the yeast.

The good news is that there are multiple kinds of yeast you might consider. For example, brewers’ yeast provides the same benefits of nutritional yeast (protein, b-vitamins, beta-glucans) but is not fortified. We carry two brands of brewers’ yeast, BlueBonnet and Solgar. Note that brewers’ yeast will lack nutritional yeast’s cheesy taste and does not contain any B-12.

Finally, it is recommended that you choose a variety of foods to get a diversity of vitamins and minerals. A whole foods diet is always the best resource for a healthy profile of nutrients.

Glyphosate spraying

I just recently learned about the practice of “preharvest spraying” of glyphosate on grains and dry beans to quickly dry-down the plant to speed harvest in the Food Democracy Now report, “Glyphosate: Unsafe on any Plate.” Outrage, once again, at Monsanto and our industrial food system.

So, my understanding is that organic grains should not have been sprayed with glyphosate, but I’m wondering how we would know if a nonorganic flour or grain (wheat, oats, barley) has been sprayed with glyphosate and thus has it in the product we are eating? There are many local bakeries that do not use organic flour but make great bread that I like to eat. With GE products, I at least had a list to avoid (corn, soy, canola) when buying non-organic.

What do you know about the breads you carry that do not use organic wheat flour? How easy or difficult is it to trace flour/grain to its farmer? Or to have some verification that it has not been sprayed with glyphosate?

— Veralea Swayne

PCC replies: You are correct in assuming organic grains are not sprayed with glyphosate. You also are correct in being skeptical about nonorganic grain products, including the many local bakeries using nonorganic wheat flour, including no-till wheat flour. We have addressed this concern in previous issues of the Sound Consumer, including “Avoiding glyphosate” in May 2017 (pccmarkets.com/r/4882) and “Concerns about glyphosate” in June 2016 (pccmarkets.com/r/4883).

In addition to applications on wheat, oats and barley crops, glyphosate also is used on garbanzo beans as a preharvest desiccant and potentially other grain or seed crops as well.

If you are concerned about residues of this “probable carcinogen” (according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer) in your food, your best option is to select organic foods — especially foods containing wheat, oats, barley and garbanzo beans, as well as corn, sugar, soy and canola.

Shelf tags

I was glad to read about PCC’s new shelf tags in the November Sound Consumer. My family and I sincerely appreciate PCC’s commitment to serving the community and, in this case, making your customers’ shopping experience more efficient.

I was surprised and a little disappointed to see that there wasn’t a vegan or vegetarian shelf tag. The tags that concerned ingredients were Organic, Gluten Free, Non-GMO, and Local (which are all important!). Was it a conscientious choice to not consider the vegan or vegetarian shopper?

I understand that the term “vegan” is considered a lifestyle by some and there is confusion about whether honey is considered vegan. If this was a concern, may I suggest a tag such as “animal-free,” “plant-based” or “made with plants”?

Thanks for all you do — we love PCC foods!

Cheers,

— Anonymous

PCC replies: Thank you for your email and for being a PCC shopper. Please know that our vegetarian and vegan shoppers are always top of mind. We have limited space for the shelf tags and, therefore, we chose to prioritize the attributes that members and shoppers told us were most important. As a result, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and local took precedence. We appreciate your feedback, however, and we’ll keep this in consideration for any future changes we may make.

Related Reading

Introducing online voting

We’re excited to share that PCC will offer members the option to vote online in the 2018 Election.

Taking on food waste

More than 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted worldwide each year, about one third of the annual food that is grown. Food waste is not only a waste of money, but it is also a systemic waste — good food is not getting to those who desperately need it. At PCC, we minimize food waste in all our stores by rescuing as much food as we can and composting what we cannot keep.

Organics and health: Beyond our own bodies

The ways that food is produced, and particularly processes of animal production, have major implications on health outcomes globally. In November the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to our global health, food security and development today. Viruses, too, are growing more powerful and deadly. Many point to industrial meat production as a source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and an incubator for these new, stronger, and harder-to-control viral strains.