Letters to the Editor

This article was originally published in September 2022

More Einkorn flour

People need more education about Einkorn wheat. Although it is sold at PCC (in products like Jovial brand white and whole wheat flours, and whole wheat pastas), I think it is not in your fresh bakery and deli products. I know it is not suited to delicate pastries, but it would be great for scones and crusts for items like quiche and pot pies. I would pay more for these healthier options. There is more information on Einkorn on the Jovial Foods website, jovialfoods.com.

— Ana

PCC replies: Thank you for your suggestions on including more products using Einkorn wheat, which the Whole Grains Council says is “generally thought to be the most ancient of wheat varieties available today,” higher in protein, phosphorus, potassium and beta-carotene than most modern wheats. We agree and are actively looking for more wholesome grain options to use in our bakery products and for more ways to include such products in our prepared foods.


Plastic film recycling

Regarding your May-June Sound Consumer article on a pilot plastic film recycling program that recently ended at the Bothell and Edmonds PCC stores, all King County residents can recycle this same plastic film for free at the Bow Lake Recycling Center/Transfer Station. Ridwell, the service that your article suggests as another option for Puget Sound residents, is not free and presents a barrier to some people, including myself. Our family has been recycling this film at Bow Lake ever since we learned of this option some years back.

PCC replies: Thank you for writing in with this information and providing more great resources for community recycling. While Ridwell is a fee-based service and we understand the barriers that can pose, PCC members do receive 10% off Ridwell’s membership fee—click here for details on that partnership. Note that King County requires customers at Bow Lake Recycling Center to show proof they live or do business within King County’s 37-city and unincorporated service area, which excludes the cities of Seattle and Milton. Again, thank you for providing information on more recycling resources. 


Nutritional yeast and MSG

I have heard that nutritional yeast contains MSG. I wanted to see if this was true. I’m also wondering about labeling; can this be labeled in store so that customers are made aware of it?

PCC replies: Thank you for asking about monosodium glutamate (MSG) in nutritional yeast. To respond briefly, MSG is not an added ingredient in PCC’s nutritional yeast offerings, therefore you will not find it listed on the ingredient label. However, individuals who are sensitive to glutamate products may opt to avoid nutritional yeast due to the inevitable presence of glutamic acid. 

For a broader look at the issue and its background, nutritional yeast has gained significant popularity among vegan and plant-based diets, because, as the name suggests, it has nutritional value. It also serves as a good replacement for cheese, because it contains naturally occurring glutamate, an amino acid that gives cheese and other foods, their umami flavor. MSG is the salt form of glutamate and used to give foods without natural glutamate additional flavor and depth. While nutritional yeast does contain sodium as well as glutamate, it will not have MSG identified as an ingredient unless it is intentionally added to the final product. 

MSG was discovered in the early 1900s by a Japanese biochemist who sought to understand where the savory, or umami flavor, came from in certain foods. The concern around MSG in America stems from a letter submitted by a doctor to the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968, who described feelings of weakness, numbness, and heart palpitations after eating at a Chinese restaurant (leading to the term “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”). During the 1970s and 1980s a number of studies were conducted on MSG, many of which have now been discredited as scientifically flawed. MSG is now recognized as safe among national and international health agencies; however, xenophobia and discrimination have contributed to the perpetuation of the myth that MSG, associated with Asian foods, is unsafe or unhealthy. Some individuals may have a mild reaction to MSG, or glutamate, but studies have found these symptoms only present at extremely high doses and without any other food.

PCC allows MSG in food products, as long as it is either organic or non-GMO verified, since it is widely recognized as safe for the majority of individuals. We always recommend that our shoppers choose the products they feel comfortable eating and to consult a doctor for health advice.

We appreciate your question and the opportunity to share this information.


Real chocolate?

When I purchased a chocolate chip cookie at the Ballard PCC, it was just delicious, especially when the chocolate chips melted a little in the car. Encouraged, I purchased another chocolate chip cookie, this time at the Green Lake branch. It was in the afternoon of our first 90-degree day, so I expected it to melt a little. But it didn’t. I got home and it still hadn’t melted at all. I broke off a third of the cookie and microwaved it for 20 seconds, and it STILL did not even begin to melt the chocolate. What gives? Is it not real chocolate? Very disappointed.

PCC responds: Thank you for writing in with your question about the chocolate chips in PCC’s cookies. We have used high-grade Guittard brand chocolate chips for decades, with no change over that span of time. These are most certainly made of real chocolate. Recently, due to supply chain issues, our supplier has substituted a smaller chip (about half the size of our usual chip). However, the formula for the chips is exactly the same. 

We are not certain what may have caused that different reaction when melting the chips, but can assure you that if you try our cookies again you will be enjoying high-quality real chocolate chips.


Homemade yogurt

I make my own yogurt using an Instant Pot, usually using Organic Valley Milk or A2 Milk, and Fage whole fat yogurt as the starter. It is smooth and creamy. I’ve tried twice with PCC brand organic milk but the result is separated whey and gooey milk “solids” that don’t blend well.

Can you tell me why this might be happening with your milk? Any recommendations?

PCC replies: Thanks for writing in with your questions about the PCC milk being used to make yogurt. PCC milk is the same as Organic Valley’s milk. We have a partnership where Organic Valley packages their milk in our private label cartons, so we were surprised to hear that you saw differences between the two. It’s possible that you used the PCC milk at a seasonally transitional time when the milk composition didn’t respond to the culture in the yogurt in the same way. Milk is actually quite a seasonal product, changing significantly with the temperature and with which foods are available to the cows.

When looking at the A2 milk, assuming the brand is Alexandre’s, the difference there could be that the A2 milk is vat-pasteurized, while the milk in the Organic Valley and PCC cartons is HTST (High Temp Short Term) pasteurized. The vat-pasteurizing technique is the gentlest form of pasteurization which may have positive effects on the yogurt making process. We hope this information proves helpful; please let us know if you have any other questions.


Egg carton recycling

Are PCC-branded egg cartons compostable for the City of Seattle pickup? They have paper labels glued on, so I’m not sure if they should be recycled or composted.

PCC replies: Thank you for writing about how best to dispose of PCC egg cartons.  

The City of Seattle recommends composting paper egg cartons because they “are not a highly valuable recyclable,” according to its website. It advises that it is OK to leave paper stickers on compostable food packaging, but plastic stickers or labels must be removed before the packaging goes in the compost cart.

For future reference, the disposal guide for all our PCC packaging will give you some good direction. Thank you for taking care to dispose of packaging properly!


Avoiding idling

Dear PCC shoppers,

Several volunteers with Sustainable Ballard have launched a new initiative called “Idle Free Ballard” to help raise awareness about unnecessary vehicle idling. Idling wastes gas, worsens climate change and harms air quality, impacting vulnerable populations—and not just in Ballard. Not-so-fun fact: 16 million gallons of fuel is wasted by unnecessary idling in the U.S. every day.

We can all can save money and health by turning off our engines…whether you’re a Seattle commuter waiting for a bridge to open, a parent waiting outside school or watching your kids’ sports, or a PCC shopper checking your phone in the parking lot before heading out. Recognize yourself in any of those scenarios? Most of us do. Simple things can make a big difference: check your phone before you turn on your car.

Want to help? Sustainable Ballard has “idle free” cards and posters to get the word out to neighbors, schools and businesses. Visit sustainableballard.org/idle-free-ballard to learn more or to help. Remember, idling gets you nowhere!

— Polly Freeman

PCC replies: Thank you for sharing this information and providing ways that individuals can make a difference.

Also in this issue

PCC grants support creative, essential food programs

From schoolchildren to elders, innovative new farmers markets to treasured old community centers, see how PCC’s Food Access Grants will help nonprofit organizations around the region provide nutritious food to those who need it.

The best fruits & vegetables to buy organic

The “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists compiled by the Environmental Working Group are a good guide for when to prioritize organic produce if you have to make a choice. See what’s new for 2022.

Make your own Five Marys beeswax wraps

Want to use less plastic wrap? These DIY beeswax wraps are a great way to cut back on lunchbox waste or get started on homemade holiday gifts.