Letters to the Editor

This article was originally published in January 2023

Compost or recycle?

Where on the PCC website does it talk about whether containers are compostable or recyclable? What about the “cardboard” boxes that food is put in at the deli?

PCC replies: Thank you for asking how to recycle specific containers. We appreciate that you want to make sure they are disposed of properly! The disposal guide for all our PCC packaging is online here. For general materials the city of Seattle has a helpful guide here

Regarding your specific questions, our deli to-go folding boxes were previously compostable, but the company we purchase them from stopped production, so we had to go back to the recyclable version. If they are clean and dry they can be recycled.

Lead warning labels

Dear Editor,

I purchased Jovial’s organic, gluten-free, grain-free pasta made from cassava flour because I wanted to reduce my glycemic intake. Imagine my surprise when I read the warning on the side of the box that said consuming this product might expose you to lead, since the tuberous root from which the flour is made pulls lead from the soil! How can this be organic? I thought PCC had stringent guidelines on all products it carries. Please explain.

Thank you,

Virginia Southas

Member 30+ years

PCC replies: Thank you for reaching out to us with your concerns about the heavy metal exposure warning on the Jovial brand pasta. The warning label is related to California’s Proposition 65, which requires disclosing any risk of potential exposure to certain substances that increase risk of cancer or cause harm to the reproductive system. More information can be found on Jovial’s website. This content was just recently added, after you reached out to us, so if you had checked Jovial’s website first and didn’t see this page, that is why.

Organic certification is a legally backed program that sets rules and restrictions around inputs and farming practices for growing and making agricultural products, such as food or wine. While organic is a strong standard that helps reduce your exposure to some of the most toxic pesticides and certain harmful food additives, organic foods can still be contaminated with heavy metals. Heavy metals are naturally occurring, but since humans began using them in many industrial applications and in consumer products like leaded gasoline or arsenic-based pesticides, they have been released into the environment in forms that can accumulate in water, soil and air and thus lead to the contamination of our drinking water, soils and many different foods. 

That being said, PCC and many others in the organic community are pushing for stronger rules and regulations to address heavy metal contamination. We also continue to urge federal regulators to establish stronger heavy metal testing requirements and more protective heavy metal limits for all food.

PCC has many strong standards, but the current food industry and landscape is incredibly challenging, and we do the best we can to offer less processed foods with fewer additives, prioritizing organic for the benefits that it does hold for climate and reduced exposure to fossil fuel-based pesticides. Additionally, PCC has standards and policies in place currently to limit potential contamination in some high-risk categories, like baby foods and rice. We also continue to work with leaders in this space, such as the Clean Label Project and FoodChainID to determine the best ways retailers can help move the issue forward.

Thank you again for contacting us and we hope this information is useful.

Burning sugarcane

Hi! I’ve been a PCC customer for many years and love PCC! I always know you’ve vetted your products and that they meet certain standards. The one you’ve gotten wrong is Florida Crystals organic cane sugar.

We now divide our time between Issaquah and Southwest Florida. Unbeknownst to you, there’s a huge environmental issue regarding Florida Crystals and other big sugar companies that burn their sugarcane fields every year, creating toxic air and pollutants that have endangered the health of people and wildlife. People of color and the poor are impacted the most. There is a huge environmental initiative via organizations like Friends of the Everglades to stop the annual burns and, instead, practice better techniques like in Brazil.

Here are some links to get educated on this topic. There is also a place to sign a petition to stop the burning. I know PCC cares and will perhaps let Florida Crystals know it’s not consistent with your requirements for products.

• Friends of the Everglades
• “Burning sugar cane pollutes communities of color in Florida. Brazil shows there’s another way

Thank you in advance for your attention on this important environmental issue.

PCC replies: Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding Florida Crystals sugar and information about the very harmful practice of pre-harvest burning in the sugarcane industry in Florida.

We reached out to Florida Crystals, and they informed us that they harvest mechanically without the use of prescribed burning, which they note is prohibited under organic regulations. Florida Crystals actually has many resources on their website about their growing practices and sustainability efforts: pccmarkets.com/r/6297. However, in reviewing those materials, it is unfortunate that they don’t seem to address this serious issue associated with their industry in their region. We have urged them to consider adding content that makes it very clear they do not engage in that practice, so that shoppers are not left wondering. 

Additionally, we also want to let you know that PCC does already offer Wholesome sugar, which has been suggested as an alternative to Florida Crystals. We agree that Wholesome is a great brand, however, it is also more expensive. In the interest of accessibility, we try to provide options to our shoppers while always maintaining our high standards. Florida Crystals is grown, processed and packaged in the United States and certified organic, offering a quality product at a lower price point. 

Thank you again for taking the time to raise these issues.

Gluten-free buckwheat

I am contacting you about the Miso, Mushroom & Soba noodle soup recipe in the latest member newsletter (pccmarkets.com/r/6298). I love this soup. You have not identified it as gluten-free. However, buckwheat is gluten-free. If one buys pure buckwheat soba noodles the soup would be gluten-free. The first time I shopped for soba noodles at PCC I discovered that one brand was pure buckwheat, which is gluten-free. Another brand, though, included wheat as well as buckwheat, and therefore is not gluten-free. I hope that the pure buckwheat brand is still available. I think your gluten-free members/customers should know this.

— Jane B.

PCC replies: Thank you for writing in about the Miso, Mushroom & Soba soup, which meets a lot of dietary needs—it is also vegan and tree-nut-free! We’re glad you enjoy it and so appreciate that you want to ensure gluten-free members and customers know there are options for them to enjoy this recipe, too. We do carry Eden Soba Noodles made with 100% Buckwheat flour at most of our locations, and staff are always happy to help customers find what they need. 

Toilet paper trade-offs

It is very disconcerting to see the expansion of Caboo (renewable bamboo) paper products at PCC, replacing other paper products made in the USA. Is the environmental cost (pollution) to ship products from China a good trade-off just to use bamboo, when many toilet papers here are made from recycled paper and not trees?

PCC replies: Thank you for asking about Caboo products. We evaluate product sustainability in many ways and try to offer a range of sustainable products so shoppers can make the best choices based on the specific priorities of their households. With Caboo, our merchandising team wanted to offer an option for paper products that were not made from trees and found that Caboo had the best quality and the most complete line. (All the bamboo-based lines they found came from China.) Caboo also offers plastic-free packaging, a bonus that is hard to find with paper products. We will certainly also continue to offer U.S.-based brands like Seventh Generation that are manufactured in North America. 

Cooking class idea

I thought you might like to know that a co-op in Minneapolis (the Seward Community Co-op) is offering a series of classes on Indigenous foods, including one on cooking with Cushaw squash, walleye and blue corn. Wish we had more ways to learn from the Indigenous cultures here. Thank you!

PCC replies: Thank you for the information! We always love hearing what class topics people are interested in seeing at PCC and consider all suggestions. You may also be interested in seeing this recent Sound Consumer article on Native American Heritage Month, which includes some resources on issues relevant to Indigenous people in the Northwest.

Also in this issue

Brighten meals by cooking with fresh herbs

Even in winter, Nancy Leson uses fresh herbs to enhance home-cooked meals.

Policy Report: Court actions on GMO food labeling

A federal ruling makes progress toward transparency on genetically engineered food labels.

Pink Moon Farm preserved

A Filipinx-owned farm helped Angela Garbes reclaim the recipes of her childhood.