Letters to the editor, June 2018

This article was originally published in June 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.

Pike Monk’s Uncle Tripel

I want to thank Robert at my awesome Fremont PCC for “re-instating” my beloved Pike Monk’s Uncle beer. He took it off the shelves but appears to have responded quickly to what I bet was outrage and restocked it!

Dry, light and extra crisp. Perfect for spring and summer! Thanks,

— Rena, a loyal PCC customer

Folate vs. folic acid

I am a long time PCC member from the late 1970s. I so love the store that I still shop even after moving to Whidbey Island more than three years ago.

I’m writing in response to the nutritional yeast letter in February’s issue (“Folate vs. Folic Acid”). In the last year, my doctor ran a DNA test for a common gene mutation called MTHFR and found that I have a mutation. As a result, she strongly suggested I eliminate all foods with synthetic folic acid as it cannot be metabolized by the liver with this mutation. Here’s a link with more info at https://doctordoni.com/2017/08/i-have-an-mthfr-mutation/.

This means I need to watch some supplements and avoid fortified wheat (since, as you mentioned, synthetic folic acid has been added since 1998) as well as other foods. I was quite surprised to learn about nutritional yeast!

I recognize there are some controversial findings about this gene mutation, but it impacts a large percent of the population. As PCC helps consumers be informed, I thought this was important info to add!

— PE

Pollinators and herbicides?

I enjoyed the article, “Insects for Food Security” (April Sound Consumer), by a member of the Xerces Society. Like many, I’m concerned about the decline in insect populations and the article inspired me to consider adding pollinator habitat to my yard.

I was surprised, however, to find that when I went to the Xerces Society website, the first PDF I opened — instructions for preparing ground for a pollinator meadow — encourages use of glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide. The photo shows a man applying this carcinogen to a small front yard that could be weeded by hand in no time. I’m confused why an organization promoting insect diversity advocates using glyphosate. It’s a real head-scratcher.

The website also offers instructions for non-chemical weed removal, along with other valuable information about restoring insect habitat. Xerces’ overall mission seems like one I’d love to support but I can’t get beyond the tragic irony of its promotion of glyphosate. I believe environmentalists must be stringent in rejecting synthetic herbicides and insecticides as legitimate choices in earth care. Can you please help elicit a response from Xerces about its rationale?

I love PCC’s advocacy for organics, the education you do, and the way you help folks vote with their forks. The pollinator and insect diversity issue is so important, I’d appreciate help figuring out the discordance between what I read in Sound Consumer and what I read on Xerces’ website. Thank you,

— Steven Thwaits

Eric Mader, Xerces Society, replies: Xerces appreciates feedback and inquiries about conservation strategies. We take our work seriously, using the best available science, including non-industry-authored science on pesticides.

Herbicide use in native plant restoration is a common topic of discussion among conservation practitioners and, unfortunately, it’s a pragmatic reality due to the millions of acres of non-native, invasive vegetation that has come to dominate much of North America, destroying vast areas of wildlife habitat. Fortunately, where conservationists use herbicides, it’s on a limited, short-term basis, unlike conventional agricultural systems that use herbicides as a routine practice, year after year.

Xerces’ conservation strategies always favor organic methodologies for small-scale restoration of native plants. These include hand weeding, solarization, smother cropping, sheet mulching, and use of organic herbicides, such as high-concentration vinegar.

While herbicides likely will continue to play a role in native plant restoration for the foreseeable future, they are best reserved for large spaces or sites where resources for other management practices are not available. For a comprehensive Xerces guide to organic wildflower establishment, please see http://xerces.org/guidelines-organic-site-preparation/.

Chicken welfare

I saw two disturbing references about “white striping,” a myopathy in chickens, even organic ones. One reference was in the journal, Poultry Science, the other on the website for Compassion in World Farming. Can you help out?

— Andrew

PCC replies: We’re aware of “white striping” in some chicken breast and thigh meat, but we have not seen it in any chicken we sell. Research shows striping is associated with heavier bodyweight, enhanced growth rates, feed efficiencies and higher fat content — but little is known about the cause. Compassion in World Farming (CWF) says the striping is linked to chicken genetics — that selective breeding has resulted in birds that grow too big, too fast. PCC is working with CWF to move the supply chain to slower-growing breeds. See page 1, side column.

Rethink “healthy”

One thing that bothers me about PCC and some other stores, too, is that there is a great emphasis on “healthy” foods. The problem comes when I read labels and discover these products are not healthy at all because they have lots of sugars and carbs, the main drivers of epidemic obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Now I’ve learned from Nina Teicholz’s book, “The Big Fat Surprise,” that the low-fat diet promoted by the American Heart Association is the biggest driver of this epidemic. Having had a mild heart attack six months ago, despite a supposedly healthy lifestyle and diet for many decades (lots of exercise, veggie diet except for fish and dairy), I asked, why? Lots of Googling of articles and reading books made me realize the traditional advice was dogma unsupported by good science. Now I’m on a diet that is very low carb (especially low in sugars) and very high fat (especially saturated fat), and finding it far superior (not surprising given that it is the almost universal diet among indigenous peoples).

Why don’t you feature eggs, cheese, cream, butter and fatty meats and fishes as the “health foods” they actually are in context of a low-carb, mostly sugar-free diet? It’s these saturated fats that satisfy the appetite, unlike carbs and sugars, and lead the body to burn fat, instead of storing excess sugars as body fat. The best studies show saturated fats actually support better heart and brain function, contrary to the dogma.

— Dick Burkhart

PCC replies: We understand and began reporting similar research, long ago. Search our website and you’ll find “The Surprising Truth about Saturated Fats,” “Kick the Sugar Craving,” “The Omega-3 Factor,” “The Bitter Truth about Big Sugar,” and “In Defense of Whole-Milk Dairy,” starting back in 2005. They were written by nutritionists who were ahead of the curve.

Sugar in sausage?

PCC Pork Kielbasa shows “sugar” in the ingredients list, yet under “Nutrition Facts” it shows “0g sugar.” Can you explain this? Also, do you put sugar in any of your soups?

— Anonymous

PCC Nutrition Educator Nick Rose, M.S., C.N., replies: Thank you for inquiring about our products and added sugars. The kielbasa contains a very small amount of sugar mixed with the seasonings (less than 0.5g per serving) and the label correctly rounds down to zero grams. The Food and Drug Administration actually requires rounding down to 0 if a food contains less than 0.5g. If total carbs or sugar are less than 1g, they must be listed “less than 1g.” If they’re less than 0.5g, they must be listed as “0g.”

For PCC deli soups, you’ll find a complete list of ingredients on the signage. Only a few, such as the Tom Kha Thai soup, have added sugars to balance the flavor. Sugar also may be listed if it’s a sub-ingredient, as in sausage or bacon added to a soup. Sub-ingredients always will be listed as ingredients.

Too much plastic

Recently I have observed an alarming increase in unnecessary packaging in the produce. Items, such as limes, potatoes, carrots and onions, are prepackaged in bundles surrounded by plastic netting. We need to decrease use of petroleum-based plastics, not increase them, especially when unnecessary.

Such packaging could be biodegradable bags rather than plastic that will not break down for thousands of years. It is past time that we, as a culture, and certainly PCC as a leader in the sustainable food industry, take a strong stand against any unnecessary use of non-biodegradable products.

PCC buyers could pressure vendors, such as Covilli organic limes from Mexico and other vendor-packaged products, to change their packaging to prioritize environmental protection, including selling without any unnecessary packaging. Please recommit to offering bulk produce and other products as an essential principle of ecologically sustainable operations. Thank you.

— Lael White

PCC replies: We agree there’s too much plastic packaging and much of it isn’t necessary. We’re seeing many new produce items in plastic at trade shows, a trend for convenience. We prefer loose, bulk produce and do consider packaging (if any, what kind) when choosing new products to sell. Sometimes we ask vendors to offer more sustainable alternatives. For example, our buyers recently asked a new potato vendor to sell his spuds in bulk instead of plastic. It’s a process pushing this concern up the supply chain and sometimes what you don’t see is happening behind the scenes.

Also in this issue

Building community with food access

Most food bank recipients work one or two jobs — and there’s a growing need among students, children and seniors. This report explains how PCC’s food bank program is unique in meeting the challenge. Unlike other grocers, we donate food and time — and the food we provide offers proper nutrition, not empty calories.

Nutrition Picks – Northwest berries: Prolific protectors

The wide variety of antioxidants in berries makes them one of the most beneficial fruits to eat for cancer prevention. Northwest strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are in season. Try these tips to freeze berries!

Community research for a healthy microbiome

Dr. David Suskind, MD, Seattle Children’s Hospital, explains his research that looks at how diet changes the microbiome in people, and how the microbiome can affect inflammatory bowel disease.