Letters to the editor, April 2018
This article was originally published in April 2018
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Compliments to the chefs
I just wanted to thank your chefs who prepare the food for the hot bar and soups. I often eat out at PCC and Whole Foods all around town and I have found your store to have the tastiest and most well-prepared food — exceptional.
Please thank your preparers for me. It is very much appreciated when people take the time to make recipes tasty and enjoyable and well prepared. I do not find this at any of the other stores.
Iodine in salt?
The salt in the bulk bins list trace minerals but do not disclose what they are. I’m wondering if PCC carries any salt with iodine and if so, how much iodine?
I’ve been reading that with the move to sea salt and the lack of iodine in processed foods (not sure if that is true), there are more cases of iodine deficiency showing up. I know sea vegetables may be a good source but would appreciate knowing more about PCC’s salt options containing iodine. Best to you,
PCC Nutrition Educator Nick Rose replies: As you have noticed, most sea salts state their products contain “naturally occurring trace elements” to highlight the presence of micro-minerals, including iodine, selenium, zinc, copper and manganese. The exact mineral composition of sea salt varies, based on the geographic origin of the salt and the percent daily value for iodine never is listed on sea salts. While these types of sea salts do contain traces of iodine, they are nowhere near the quantity of iodine found in iodized salts, which typically are fortified at a level of approximately 50 percent of the daily value per ¼ tsp. (The Food and Drug Administration recommends fortification of salt in the range of 46-76 mg iodine/kg salt.)
At PCC we do carry one iodized salt, by Hain. This product, however, is not available in bulk. The Hain iodized salt states that it contains 45 percent of the iodine daily value per ¼ tsp.
The most reliable food sources of iodine are seafood and sea vegetables, such as nori, arame and dulse. Vegetables and land animals (eggs, meat) can contain iodine only if the soil is rich in this mineral and soil concentrations vary greatly from region to region. Iodine deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world — approximately one-third of the world’s population is insufficient in iodine. Here in the U.S. we have similar rates. A recent study found that just under half the population is insufficient in this essential mineral — increasing the risks for thyroid disorders, goiter and fertility problems.
I recently read a New York Times article about the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is linked to brain damage, lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Banned 17 years ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and newly embraced by the Trump administration, it is found in the umbilical cords of 87 percent of newborns, according to a 2012 study.
Are we safe from this pesticide if we eat organic fruits and vegetables? Is washing fruit and vegetables an effective way to protect ourselves from exposure?
Thanks for all you do to keep us informed and healthy,
— Wendy Borton
PCC replies: Thank you for asking these two important questions about how consumers can avoid the pesticide chlorpyrifos. We agree this pesticide is too dangerous to be used on food crops. Here are answers to your specific questions:
Q: Are we safe from chlorpyrifos if we eat organic fruits and vegetables?
A: Yes. Chlorpyrifos is prohibited absolutely by organic standards. Third-party organic certifying agents have authority under the law to test for residues of any prohibited substances, including pesticides, at any time if there’s any cause for concern. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also conducts random checks on 5 percent of the nation’s organic farms to ensure compliance.
Q: Is washing fruit and vegetables an effective way to protect ourselves from exposure?
A: No. USDA’s own Pesticide Data Program found chlorpyrifos residue on citrus and melons even after being washed and peeled. Chlorpyrifos also is used on corn, soybeans, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, strawberries, corn, wheat, citrus and other foods that families and their children eat daily. More than half of all apples and broccoli in the U.S. reportedly are sprayed with chlorpyrifos.
EPA released a revised human health risk assessment for chlorpyrifos in November 2016 that confirmed there are no safe uses for the pesticide. EPA found all food exposures exceed safe levels, with children age 1–2 exposed to levels of chlorpyrifos 140 times what EPA deems safe.
Purchasing organic foods is the best way to avoid dietary pesticides, including chlorpyrifos. We also always advocate washing all produce, including produce that’s sold "pre-washed" in a package, using lukewarm (not cold) water.
We have advocated against dangerous pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos, since the 1980s when PCC board member and state representative, Ken Jacobsen, helped pass the Washington Organic Food Products Act in 1985. We remain true to this course. Last year we issued an email action alert through PCC Advocates encouraging subscribers to petition the EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt, to implement EPA’s 10-year plan to ban chlorpyrifos from use on food crops. Pruitt revoked the plan.
Thank you again for calling this out and for caring about our food.
Olive oil selection
A study by UC Davis found that many imported olive oils are adulterated and not truly extra virgin olive oil. This result was replicated by ConsumerLab: “By definition extra-virgin olive oil is supposed to be flawless, but only the top nine of the 23 products our experts tried were free of flaws. More than half tasted fermented or stale.”
These days high quality extra-virgin olive oil is produced in California that is fresher, guaranteed to meet USDA standards (imports don’t have to meet this standard), and is locally produced.
Additionally, good olive oil should have a harvest date on the back of the olive oil so that consumers can gauge freshness. Of the olive oil brands in my local PCC, I found only two of the 20-plus brands have a harvest date.
Please consider revising your olive oil selection to include more locally made and fresher olive oils. As it is, I order quality olive oil online, which gets expensive for shipping. I’d much rather give my money to PCC than to online vendors, if only PCC would improve its selection. Thanks in advance,
— David Dennis
PCC Nutrition Educator Nick Rose replies: Thanks for taking the time to voice your concerns about olive oil and our selection at PCC. We have been following the concerns about extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and published criteria for olive oil integrity in Sound Consumer last year, see pccmarkets.com/sound-consumer/2017-05/choosing-a-good-olive-oil-at-pcc/. We advise looking on labels for the place of origin, date of harvest or pressing, name of the cultivar(s), and a seal of authenticity, either DOP (Europe) or COOC (United States). Not all good quality oils will list these features, but they can be good markers of authenticity.
One of the U.S. brands that rates high is California Olive Ranch, one of our top sellers. Each bottle is stamped with the harvest date and certified extra virgin by the California Olive Oil Council. This brand also was “approved” by the ConsumerLab report you cited. We also carry U.S. EVOOs by Napa Valley Naturals (not all Napa Valley Naturals EVOOs are U.S.-grown but some are).
In terms of improving our olive oil selection, our approach is to query each brand to find out how they verify authenticity and purity. This allows us to carry a range of EVOOs from around the world, since many shoppers seek out Spanish or Italian olive oils for various reasons.
Thanks for the question and let me know if you want to share your favorite brands of olive oil. My personal favorite is California Olive Ranch’s Arbosana.
Recyclable coffee bags?
Hi, I am wondering if the PCC custom blend coffee bag is recyclable? If it is not, can that be a consideration for the store brand items as you move forward?
PCC replies: Unfortunately, our custom coffee bag is not recyclable due to the multiple layers of material (inner poly lining, foil and outer material) needed to keep the beans fresh. We haven’t been able to find manufacturers that produce a recyclable valve bag, but we always are looking out for them.
Just putting my two cents in for the book, "Grass-Fed Nation — Getting Back the Food We Deserve," by Graham Harvey.
Harvey is an English author so his reference is primarily based in England with some side notes on U.S. farmers letting their livestock free-range in moveable fencing so they enjoy wild grasses, herbs and flowers as they fertilize naturally where they roam.
Proven results are that barren soil can be brought back to life in a one-to-three year period, and that meat, dairy and eggs have massive amounts of nutrients added back in, so that eating the old fashioned full-fat way is healthier, reduces the growth of many diseases, and is more delicious. Traditional farming also brings back the land, birds, animals and small businesses. This book helped me understand the REAL value of grass-fed anything over grain-fed feedlot cattle and chickens. You will, too, if you check it out!
— Sally Lindberg Goetsch