Letters to the editor
Letters must be 250 words or less and include a name and hometown. Submission of letter grants automatic approval of publication to PCC, including name and hometown, in print and online. Submission does not guarantee publication. PCC reserves the right to edit content of submissions. Please email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heavy metals in food
Thank you so much for writing about the issues with heavy metals and baby food. As a mother of a 9-month-old baby, I was concerned about that issue. I’m very glad to know that PCC is seriously taking actions on this. I’ve been making baby food from organic ingredients most of the time, but sometimes use prepared ones. Now I’m wondering if making baby food myself also contains heavy metals? If prepared baby food contains heavy metals even when it’s organic, then what about regular food for adults? I hope PCC has an answer for this.
PCC replies: Thank you for reading our update on how PCC is trying to minimize risks of heavy metals in our baby foods and reaching out with your concerns about heavy metals in all foods.
Heavy metals are naturally occurring in the environment, so there is always the possibility that depending on where certain foods are grown that they can absorb these contaminants from the soil or water. However, since humans began using heavy metals in many industrial applications and consumer products, such as leaded gasoline or arsenic-based pesticides, these materials have been released into the environment at increasing levels. The ubiquity of heavy metals in the environment has made it difficult to completely avoid contaminated food and water (even when choosing organic producers that don’t use pesticides containing heavy metals).
While heavy metals pose the greatest risk to babies and children because of their stage of development, heavy metals can also pose a risk for adults. PCC has worked hard for years to make sure we’re selling products that have the least amount of contamination when possible. For example, we require our rice suppliers (rice is particularly adept at absorbing arsenic from water) to disclose arsenic levels in their rice and we avoid sourcing from areas known to have even greater risk of contamination, like the southeastern United States.
Even with those efforts, there are steps that parents and others can take to minimize the risk:
First, heavy metal contamination is more common in certain types of foods, namely rice products. Other foods that have been found to have increased levels of heavy metals include sweet potatoes, apple juice, grape juice, spices and some fish. The recommendation of pediatricians is not to avoid these foods completely, just be sure to incorporate them into a balanced and diversified diet.
Second, homemade baby food is still a great way to avoid potential heavy metal contamination that can occur through industrial processing or the addition of vitamin mixes (an issue highlighted in the recent congressional report on heavy metal contamination in baby food). Like the first recommendation to reduce risk, however, one should still diversify the types of foods provided and not rely too heavily on those types of foods known to have higher levels.
Third, get your water tested for heavy metals and consider using filtered water for drinking and preparing foods.
Again, thank you for reaching out with your concerns!
Avoiding toxic plastics
I am a dietitian in the cancer center at Overlake Hospital and have many patients that shop at PCC. It seems that PCC has started using new compostable containers for deli/take-home foods that are marked with the #7 plastic recycle symbol. We advise our patients to avoid these containers in general due to BPA content and risk of cancer. I know #7 plastics is a wide category including many different types of plastics; is there any more information you can give me about specifically which type is being used in these containers? Many of my patients love shopping at PCC and rely on the deli/take-home options but are worried about using these types of containers. Any additional information you can provide is greatly appreciated, thank you!
— Jenna Lee
PCC replies: Thank you for reaching out. Our compostable deli containers are made from Ingeo polylactic acid or PLA, which is a bio-based material made by fermenting sugar molecules from plants like corn, cassava and sugar cane. Additives such as BPA, phthalates, PFAS and many other chemicals of concern are not added to this material. Ingeo PLA is compliant with governmental food contact requirements in both the U.S. and EU, in addition to independent third parties such as the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Here’s a link to additional health and safety information on Ingeo PLA.
As for toxicity concerns regarding #7 plastic, #7 is a catchall for miscellaneous plastics that don’t fit into the other resin numbers 1-6. Since Ingeo PLA is a bioplastic and different from conventional petroleum-based plastics that are labeled #1-6, it falls under #7 with other miscellaneous plastics, such as DVDs, nylon, and polycarbonate, which contains BPA. You’re correct that many of these other #7 miscellaneous plastics are some of the most toxic and problematic from a food contact perspective, but Ingeo PLA is not known to be one of concern for the reasons discussed above. In fact, lower toxicity concerns for people and the planet is one of the many benefits we evaluated when considering whether to make the switch to compostable containers.
Thank you again for your question and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any additional questions.
The refrigerants used at the Columbia City PCC are R507 & R402A, which have a global warming potential of 3,985 & 2,788, respectively. This means that they are 3,985 & 2,788 times worse for the climate than the same amount of CO2.
There are better refrigerants that we can use today, e.g. CO2 coolant. It is important to migrate to using a different coolant because of the leakage that occurs in refrigerant systems.
Are there any thoughts on changing the coolant systems in the PCC stores?
PCC replies: Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us regarding Columbia City’s refrigerants. We share your concerns around the climate impact of refrigerants. We have reduced emissions associated with refrigeration leaks by 38% since 2018 (see our Co-op Purposes Report). In addition to updating our refrigeration maintenance procedures to minimize leaks, we’re also designing our new stores to use low-impact refrigerants. Our Ballard, West Seattle and Bellevue stores utilize CO2 as a natural refrigerant. We’re also looking into phasing out high-impact refrigerants at our older stores, such as the ones you’ve noted, with lower-impact alternatives.
Thank you again for sharing your questions and concerns with us. We are always grateful for shoppers like you, who help us to reduce our impact on the environment.