Letters to the Editor
Sound Consumer November 2018
Letters must be 250 words or less and include a name, address and daytime phone number. We reserve the right to edit. Please email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awesome vegan options
Thank you for all the vegan prepared foods. The vegan chocolate and carrot cake cupcakes are my favorite. You’re awesome!
First, thank you VERY much for all your vegan options. We especially appreciate the partnership PCC has with Alki Bakery — the vanilla frosted chocolate cakes for two are phenomenal. We used it for our daughter’s cake for her 1st birthday this weekend.
Second, I recently contacted PCC Redmond to ask about Beyond Meat products (particularly the Beyond Sausages) and the representative I spoke with explained that PCC doesn’t carry them because of an ingredient they contain. I know PCC makes very deliberate choices with the products chosen to purchase and offer. I was wondering what that ingredient is. Can you share?
PCC replies: Thank you for asking. The history is that we did sell the faux chicken version of “Beyond Meat” at one time, but it was discontinued because it contains titanium dioxide (TiO2), a whitening agent that often is a product of nanotechnology, which we prohibit. We have not carried this item since 2016. We started selling the Beyond Meat burger last August after it received Non-GMO Project Verification. Due to production limitations with the vendor, the sausages are not currently available to our supplier. We plan to carry the sausages as soon as the producer expands capacity and we are able to get them.
Thank you for your response to the letter about “Plastic Packaging” in May’s issue. I just would like to add a request: Please bring back small- and large-sized paper bags for the bulk department! I always steal the bags from the mushroom area.
— Kathleen Ridihalgh
My guess is you have read about a plastic-free aisle in a Dutch supermarket. The grocery chain, Ekoplaza, offers 700 foods plastic-free — including meat, sauces, yogurt and dairy, cereals, snacks, chocolate, fresh fruit and vegetables. Is this something PCC would consider? How great would this be for PCC to be an American leader!
— Brooke D.
PCC replies: The pop-up store, Ekoplaza, is selling selected grains, nuts and some salad greens in what appears to be cellulose bags. Most of these bear Ekoplaza’s own brand, meaning the foods are packaged by Ekoplaza itself, so it controls its packaging. That’s different than relying on an array of independent manufacturers. You’ll see foods in cellulose bags at PCC, too — just not all together in one aisle or section.
PCC sells a much broader variety of foods than Ekoplaza, including a full offering in produce and deli, where we have the biggest packaging challenges. We always make compostable paper bags available in bulk and produce and our goal of replacing petroleum-based produce bags and deli cups is underway. We hope to shift to compostable produce bags in 2019 and have tested two options, but they’re not yet in use. We do offer a large selection of package-free products in our bulk food area and you are welcome to bring your own container for bulk food purchases.
See October’s issue for more information on our goals to reduce plastic packaging.
Our family would like to reduce the amount of waste, particularly plastic, that we create through our consumption. Is it possible to purchase bulk foods with re-usable containers and if so, how does that work (i.e., with weighing the foods)?
— Jeff Flogel
PCC replies: Thanks for your question about using reusable containers when shopping our bulk section. We encourage shoppers to bring their containers from home — it’s a great way to avoid single-use packaging. Please check in with a cashier, or at the deli counter, and ask them to write the tare weight on your empty containers before you fill them. When you check out at the register, the cashier will take off the weight of the container, so you will be charged only for the bulk food.
A checker just filled me in on your newer compostable receipts made from some source of vitamin C. Kudos to PCC for being so innovative. May I ask, though, why receipts must be printed when we shop? I would be happy to skip it all together most of the time or perhaps have it emailed?
PCC replies: We’re glad you appreciate our compostable receipts. We changed our receipts in 2014 to ensure customer and employee safety. Our current receipt paper contains no bisphenol-A (BPA) or bisphenol-S (BPS), both of which are common in other receipt papers. Instead, it uses vitamin C as an image developer. More information about our receipt paper can be found in October 2014’s Sound Consumer. Unfortunately, our current register system requires the printing of receipts. We are in the process of considering an upgrade to our point of sale (cash register) system and we are looking into eliminating this printing requirement in our new system. Thank you for your encouragement and environmental stewardship.
I have gotten into the habit of trusting PCC for supplying us with food that has a minimal footprint on the planet. So, it was with much dismay that I discovered the oranges I bought were not from California but from Fort Meyers, Florida.
Upon further investigation, I discovered they had been handled in Florida but were from Australia. Really? Can you please explain this to me?
— Longtime PCC member
PCC replies: You’re correct that we brought in some nonorganic navel oranges from Australia earlier this year. That was because U.S. navels were out of season at that time and Australian oranges were the only ones available on the market. There are some produce items — such as oranges, bananas and grapes — that our shoppers expect to find in our stores all year. Due to seasonal growing limitations, we have made the decision to broaden our supply chain for some products at specific times of year. We source as much tropical fruit from U.S. producers as possible, but when that’s not possible — for one or two months a year — we broaden our supply chain.
You may also be interested to know that transportation is a very small part of a food’s total greenhouse gas/carbon footprint. Environmental Science and Technology found that while “food miles” get a lot of attention, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) associated with food are dominated by the production phase, which contributes 83 percent of the average U.S. household’s food consumption footprint. Transportation represents only 11 percent of food’s GHG emissions.
Canned food BPA?
I’ve been a member for 10 years, love your store, and love even more your commitment to tackling the more difficult issues of food packaging and non-ingredient ingredients in the food you sell.
I’m concerned about “no bisphenol-A” claims on can packaging (beans, tomatoes) and the unstated but most-likely-BPA linings of cans for beer, wine and soft drinks. The companies with “non-BPA” linings (Eden Foods, Muir Glen, Field Day, Hatch, etc.) don’t state what their can linings actually are made of. My concern is that these linings are likely to be BPS (bisphenol-S) but because it isn’t stated, I can’t know the risk associated with the products I buy.
I’m concerned your beer set is growing larger in the cans and smaller in the bottles. I know about the packaging and transport pros and cons. I’m concerned about human health effects.
What is PCC’s stance on BPA vs. BPS? What is PCC doing to identify “non-BPA” coatings to consumers? What is PCC doing to communicate the still-likely BPA linings of beer, wine and soft drink cans?
All I want is to eat healthy food without cooking my beans for an hour on the stove. If you can shed some light on these questions I’d surely appreciate it.
PCC replies: We very much share your concerns about bisphenols, particularly bisphenol-A and bisphenol-S, often used in the resins of canned food linings and the underside of jar and bottle caps. We have been tracking these chemicals of concern at least since 2006 when we first began reporting the concerns to members through Sound Consumer.Research has found BPA causes changes in DNA that promote cancer in adulthood, especially prostate cancer. Bisphenol-S appears to have similar properties. Concern about bisphenols is the reason we switched to phenol-free receipt tapes in 2010 and 2014.
Packaging additives are not declared by manufacturers. Bisphenols (and other toxic additives to packaging materials) are not “ingredients” under labeling laws and therefore disclosure of packaging substances is not required. The result is that retailers and consumers do not have a reliable way of knowing what substances are used, or where. Also, manufacturers often change packaging, jeopardizing the accuracy and currency of any documentation process.
We understand about not wanting to wait for beans to cook for an hour, yet the choice either is canned beans or cooking them yourself, and cooking from scratch is the most certain way to avoid hidden chemicals of concern. See our bean information page for tips on cooking beans. If you use a pressure cooker, they’ll be ready in as little as 20 minutes and will be more tender, more flavorful and more digestible. If that is just not realistic for you, we encourage you to contact brands you want to know about directly and, please, let us know what they tell you!
For drinks in aluminum cans, we face the same choice: buy in glass, make our own, or contact the company and let them know how packaging choices are affecting our purchases. It’s important to let manufacturers know we are paying attention to their packaging choices. We thank you for being part of this push.