letters to the editor
This article was originally published in January 2019
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Some produce managers say all apples sold in stores these days have been waxed or treated with plant-based shines to prevent bruising in transit and to prolong shelf life.
Is this true of PCC apples? They certainly look shiny. Have they been waxed?
PCC replies: Thank you for asking. We do not sell apples that are waxed. There sometimes is a naturally occurring wax that an apple will produce to protect itself. Apples in cold storage produce wax to resist moisture loss and slow natural degradation. For example, we source Fuji apples from River Valley Organics in Tonasket, Washington, and the cold nights in that area give the apples an extraordinary color and can spur the apples to produce a waxier finish.
The longer apples are in storage, the more naturally occurring wax may develop. Washing apples with vinegar can help remove this naturally occurring wax.
Silicone and D4
The story of PCC’s new packaging initiative in the October issue mentions that we should avoid silicone plastics containing D4.
Are the popular silicone spatulas, baking mats, cake molds and ice cube molds made with these plastics? If not, can you tell me what those products are so that I can avoid them in the future? Thank you.
PCC replies: Thanks for asking about silicone. Silicone is a general term for a class of materials with plastic-like properties and the answer to whether a product contains D4 or other toxins depends on the specific item. Data on what products contain D4 is not publicly available.
The concern about silicone in general is that cyclic methylsiloxanes (such as D4) often are intermediates in their production and silicone rubbers can contain residual cyclic methylsiloxanes. The scientists we work with at Clean Production Action say they’re particularly concerned with D4, D5 and D6. D4 is on the EU’s Category 1 endocrine disruptors list. There also is evidence that D4 is a reproductive toxicant. There are knowledge gaps on long-term health impacts. In June 2018, D4, D5 and D6 were all placed on the EU’s Substances of Very High Concern list (echa.europa.eu/candidate-list-table) because they are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances.
Unfortunately, in 2017 Washington state decided to delist D4 from required reporting if present in kids’ products sold in our state. We believe this decision was a mistake as it removes the transparency you (and we) would prefer. Our new packaging standards aim to be ahead of the curve by listing D4 silicone as something to avoid.
Microplastics in sea salt?
I apologize if this has been discussed previously — although I try to read all your newsletters, there are some I miss.
I recently have become concerned about microplastics in salt. Do you carry brands that are known to be better than others?
— Crystal Olsen
PCC replies: Thank you for your question. To avoid microplastics in salt, unrefined French sea salt produced by solar evaporation is a good choice. The Eden Foods brand, which we carry, uses that method. You also might consider mined salt as an alternative to sea salt. We carry Himalayan salt as well as Redmond Real Salt, mined in Utah.
Microplastics are appearing more commonly in commercial table salts, likely due to plastic pollution in our ecosystems. Recent research published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environmental Science Technology found that more than 90 percent of 39 salt brands tested contained microplastics. Researchers are studying human exposure to microplastics to determine the long-term health impacts.
After hearing good things about hemp, I thought I would try hemp milk. I try to find dairy milk alternatives with the least ingredients and so Westsoy’s Unsweetened Vanilla Soy milk is a favorite.
I recently purchased Tempt Unsweetened Vanilla Hemp Milk after reading the ingredients on all the hemp milk products. The dipotassium phosphate listed as an ingredient gave me some pause. I did some research on health effects of dipotassium phosphate after I got home and now am feeling concerned.
How closely does PCC screen the ingredients in the products it sells? I have one more carton of the hemp milk, which I will use, but sadly I don’t think I will purchase it again. I read labels carefully, which is why I have turned down most of the other dairy milk alternatives. I guess I will stick with my soy milk.
— Virginia Southas,
PCC member of 30 years and counting.
PCC replies: This is an excellent question, thank you for asking. We have a deliberate process for screening products before they are allowed in our stores. Our list of acceptable (and unacceptable) ingredients in food is here.
The big difference between the two brands you’re comparing is that Westsoy Unsweetened Vanilla Soy milk is organic and, therefore, prohibits the dipotassium phosphate additive. The Tempt Unsweetened Vanilla Hemp Milk is not organic and, therefore, contains this additive found in many processed foods, including nondairy beverages.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), dipotassium phosphate generally is recognized as safe and EWG says there is sufficient data and studies on it. The concerns expressed are about the health impacts of a high-phosphorous diet in general (meat, poultry and grains are highest) — not whether this ingredient is safe to consume from one food.
At the same time, it is worth paying attention to the cumulative potential of phosphates (or any additives) in your diet as a whole. The National Institutes of Health notes that “phosphate additives in food are a matter of concern and their potential impact on health may well have been underappreciated.”
While this additive isn’t currently on our list of prohibited ingredients, we are referring your feedback to our Quality Standards Committee for review. We continually monitor additives and promote a whole food diet without the additives found in processed foods.
I received an email from the Organic Consumers Association reporting ongoing glyphosate levels in Florida’s Natural orange juice. Apparently, Roundup is used on weeds under the trees and is expressed in the oranges. I think it’s important to educate consumers about such contamination, since Roundup is linked to endocrine disruption in humans.
Is PCC aware of this? Do you carry another brand without glyphosate levels?
— Pat Waterston (longtime PCC member)
PCC replies: We’re aware that Roundup is used to control weeds around nonorganic citrus trees — and more. Research indicates there are three main sources of glyphosate in food: 1) genetically engineered crops, 2) desiccation practices (either sprayed on nonorganic crops just before harvest or to burn down “no till” fields) and 3) perennial crops (possibly from desiccation build up).
High levels of glyphosate have been detected in nonorganic oats and wheat, garbanzo beans, lentils, yellow potatoes, wine grapes, cranberries, blueberries, coffee, tea and cocoa. It is persistent in the soil.
Buying organic is the best way to avoid high levels of glyphosate in food since organic standards strictly forbid its use in certified organic operations. We’re happy to say we sell fluid organic orange juice from Columbia Gorge and Uncle Matt’s, and frozen OJ from Cascadian Farms.
The health concerns from glyphosate are one reason we’re committed to adding 1,000 new organic products to our shelves over the next five years.
I’m wondering if you can tell me who the manufacturer is on the bulk organic rolled oats. I’m looking to find info on if it’s been tested for glyphosate.
PCC replies: Thank you for the question about organic bulk oats. All our organic bulk oats currently come from Grain Millers, which has a policy of not accepting oats treated with glyphosate. See grainmillers.com to view the full policy.
We also sell bulk nonorganic steel cut oats from Bob’s Red Mill. We spoke with representatives at Bob’s who let us know that, due to customer concerns, they began working with their nonorganic farmers more than a year ago to stop spraying glyphosate on their fields. Bob’s does not test its oats but its non-organic farmers self-report that they do not spray.
We share your concerns about pesticides and other chemicals of high concern. Recently PCC joined a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency asking it to sharply limit glyphosate residues allowed on oats and to prohibit use as a preharvest drying agent.
Your meat trays are marked as being either compostable or recyclable. From an environmental perspective, is it preferable to compost them or recycle them?
PCC replies: Thank you for this question. Composting is far better than recycling for several reasons. See our article comparing the two here.
Note that PCC’s beige meat trays are compostable and not recyclable. These trays are compostable only in commercial facilities, including public utility curbside compost. The trays won’t compost in a backyard system because small-scale home composting doesn’t get hot enough to break them down.
The clear poultry trays are meant to be recyclable but not compostable but we’re workign to move that supplier to a compostable tray.