Letters to the Editor
This article was originally published in May 2019
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My husband and I have been PCC members since the 1990s. Living in Seattle we shopped for all our food at PCC. Since we moved to Gig Harbor, for a number of years we would drive in often to shop. Now we have reached a time when due to age (69 and 73) and traffic we cannot get to a PCC as often. Burien is closest but still too far to make frequent trips. Given all that, it helps us to receive the 10% benefit when we do make it in. If you change to a benefit that rewards more frequent shoppers, how would that help people like us? As you do not have a store in the South Sound, those of us who live down here and love PCC are at a disadvantage. Is it possible to somehow give certain members who live far away from a store and who do not shop as often that 10% per month benefit? Identified by their PCC number or ID that shows address? That may be too difficult to work into the system, but the 10% discount does help us as we are on a fixed income and prices continue to climb and knowing we get that discount encourages us to make the trip where we can shop at the store of our choice. With all the changes going on in Seattle, we would be sad to see this change at PCC.
— Bonnie Sobolewski
PCC replies: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your perspective on member benefits, for being a longtime member of PCC and for your dedication to shopping with us. Gig Harbor is quite the trek! Thank you for your dedication to our co-op.
Your grocery shopping situation is quite unique to our co-op. Most of our members and shoppers visit our stores several times a week — in fact the national average is two times a week. While a discount off one shop a month, as PCC currently does, is of greatest benefit to shoppers like you, who do large “stock up” grocery trips monthly, very few of our members shop this way.
Through our work, we’ve listened to and considered feedback from a wide range of members. While there are some members like you who use the 10% off a shop a month, the majority — more than half — don’t. This tells us that the current program isn’t appealing to a large percentage of our membership. Our goal is to create a program that is more equitable and relevant to our members.
We have considered many options for what the program will become. Thank you for offering a creative solution for consideration. Unfortunately, with more than 65,000 members, the logistics of creating different programs for different regions simply isn’t possible.
I hope, even with a change to the member benefit, that you will continue to be a member of and support PCC. Because we are owned by our members, and not a corporation or venture capitalists, we are able to fully pursue our mission of creating a cooperative, sustainable environment in which the natural and organic supply chains thrive. We know this is why many members trust and shop with us, and we’re very appreciative.
Reducing shampoo packaging
My wife tells me there are shampoo and conditioner bars, like bars of soap. They advertise as zero packaging. Have you considered those?
— David Yao, Seattle
PCC replies: We appreciate your interest in products without plastic packaging. PCC does carry two shampoo bars (Camamu and Badger brands, currently). We are seeking conditioner bars actively and hope to offer them in the future.
I have gluten intolerance and my daughter has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease (which means I may have it as well). I have been trying to discover the extent to which the incidence of celiac disease may be a response to environmental triggers and I discovered in the process that “meat glue” (microbial transglutaminase or mTg) is not only a recombinant technology but that it is under suspicion for being cross-reactive with gluten and may indeed be an environmental trigger for the expression of celiac disease. Yet, as far as I can tell, it is not listed as such in food labeling, other than “enzymes.”
More perniciously it apparently is being used in a lot of gluten-free baked goods and also in dairy products to make dairy thicker and “creamier.” So what is a person with celiac disease to do?
Is this something PCC is aware of and is it possible to find more product information on what enzymes are used in a particular food item?
Here are a couple of the studies exploring the link between mTg and celiac disease.
— Ann Anagnost
PCC replies: Thank you for calling attention to a processing aid that was not on our radar. The literature confirms mTg is being produced with genetic engineering and is used to improve firmness, viscosity and elasticity in foods — making it valuable in gluten-free bakeries. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require labeling of processing aids as ingredients because they supposedly are removed, but residues may remain in finished products. The food scientist we spoke with believes mTg, therefore, potentially could prompt reactions.
We understand German and Swiss regulatory authorities have issued a public warning about the risks of mTg but here in the U.S., the FDA considers mTg Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), which does not ensure it was assessed independently (to understand the loopholes in the GRAS process, see our 2013 article, “Food ingredients”). We’ll keep investigating and welcome further information.
I have shopped at PCC since 1978 and have been a member almost that long. My main complaint is that PCC has lost its way and now is more concerned with your attorneys’ advice than the health of the members and, thus, has stopped carrying raw milk.
As far as I am concerned they can toss all their big corporate pasteurized (cooked) milk in the trash; even if it is organic, the beneficial bacteria and enzymes mostly are destroyed. Pasteurization is for the benefit of big dairy, not the health of the members.
PCC, please, again carry RAW MILK and work to legalize raw butter and yogurt, etc. Also, fire your attorneys that do not understand that the benefit of health should be greater than the fear of damaging the bottom line.
I do appreciate that PCC supports organic farmers and thus I remain a member.
PCC replies: Thank you for requesting that we sell raw milk. After much consideration, PCC has chosen not to carry raw milk anymore. We did at one time, but decided the risk to you, our members, and your families and friends is too great for us. We know there’s some interest, there always has been over the decades, but the risks for us as a retailer outweigh the benefits. We’re sorry we are not able to offer this for you.
Salt and microplastics
In a recent Sound Consumer I read a reader’s question (and your response) about microplastic contamination in sea salt.
Would that be happening/possible in organic-labeled salts also?
I just wanted to be sure I understood your article (and the safest choices) clearly. Thank you for taking the time to answer this! Most gratefully yours,
— Teria Atwood-Smith
Asheville, North Carolina
PCC replies: Thank you for continuing to stay in touch from North Carolina! Yes, salt used in organic seasoning products theoretically could contain levels of microplastics (since microplastics are a global problem) and salt itself is excluded from organic certification. Any salt product that’s labeled organic means only that the added herbs and spices are certified organic, not the sea salt itself.
Regarding purity, a recent study on microplastics in salt published by the journal Environmental Science & Technology (October 2018) found that whether salts contain microplastic particles is related strongly to the plastic pollution (“emissions”) in a given region. It seems to depend more on where the salt comes from and how it was made. Tests show samples from the following regions did not contain microplastics: Taiwan (refined sea salt), China (refined rock salt) and France (unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation). PCC sells French unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation, from Eden Foods, a brand with the highest organic integrity.
Deli box options
I know that PCC is trying to cut back on use of plastic packaging. So why is it that salads in the deli section are sold in plastic boxes rather than the cardboard boxes that are available in the self-serve salad section? We always have to ask for a cardboard box instead of a plastic box at the Issaquah PCC.
— Hanne Thiede
PCC replies: Thank you for taking the time to write to us regarding deli packaging, and for your ongoing support of the co-op. You’re correct that single-use plastic is a pressing concern, and something that is top of mind for us. We are transitioning our petroleum-based deli packaging to entirely compostable options to keep waste out of landfills as we work toward a zero waste goal.
The plastic containers we currently use are best if the salad is going to be stored for a while before consumption. The current compostable paper containers do not hold up well to storage. The new compostable containers will be made from PLA, which looks and acts much like plastic.