Letters to the editor

This article was originally published in March 2023

Store wine tastings

Do I need to pre-register/pay a fee for the wine and beer tasting events held in stores? Thank you!

PCC replies: Great questions! There is no need to pre-register for wine tastings. These are free sampling events that we put on to provide an opportunity for education and connection in our stores. You will find the list of scheduled tasting times here, though schedules can vary with holidays or special events so it never hurts to call the store ahead to confirm. You may also be interested in our special event with PCC’s Wine Guys later this year; click here for details.


Chocolate concerns

I’m writing because there have been recent reports of high levels of lead and cadmium being found in many name-brand chocolate bars, such as Dove, Trader Joe’s, Theo’s, Lily’s, Lindt, etc. Has PCC tested its chocolate bar production in Bellingham for these toxic chemicals?

PCC replies: Thank you for contacting us about the recent Consumer Reports article on cadmium and lead levels in dark chocolate. We understand and share your concerns about heavy metal contamination in foods. PCC has been tracking and taking action on this issue where possible for many years. You can find an extensive set of questions and answers on the issue here, but some highlights include:

Heavy metals occur naturally, especially in volcanic soils of Latin America. Since humans began using heavy metals in many industrial applications and consumer products, like leaded gasoline or heavy metal-based pesticides, they have been released into the environment in forms that can accumulate in water, soil, and air, thus leading to contaminated water, soil, and many different foods (e.g., rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and more). According to the Consumer Reports article, lead is more likely to contaminate chocolate during the processing phase, whereas cadmium accumulates in the cacao trees from the soil. 

K’UL, the producer of PCC Chocolate, tests every batch of cacao beans for heavy metals. In response to this report, K’UL has now run some tests on the finished product and are working with suppliers to minimize heavy metal levels, such as diversifying cocoa sourcing while maintaining its commitment to supporting local, fair-trade producers.

PCC also reached out to the brands we carry that tested higher in cadmium and lead than the baselines established by Consumer Reports. The overwhelming response from vendors was that they test for heavy metals regularly, at multiple stages during production, including in the final bar form, and those tests all fall below the recommended levels for heavy metal content. It is important to note that there is no universal alignment on what “recommended levels” are actually safe, so vendors may be assessing using different standards, such as Proposition 65 or the European Union limits. Most vendors also noted they have and continue to make changes to minimize contamination, through sourcing or processing methods. 

Consumer Reports makes several recommendations on how to reduce potential exposure to heavy metals when eating chocolate and we encourage you to check out the report to learn more. To highlight a few, they suggest consuming chocolate in moderation and choosing milk or dark chocolate with less cocoa content (under 70%). Don’t give kids too much dark chocolate and try to minimize your consumption if pregnant. Lastly, eat a well-rounded diet as this cannot only help reduce exposure to heavy metals in chocolate, but all potential sources of heavy metals in food.

We will continue to assess the identified brands and products to determine the next best steps. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out.


Cast-iron cooking

I was looking through the Sound Consumer and read about cast iron cooking here. I use cast iron daily and have made a few one- pan creations myself. A current favorite is chicken enchiladas. We keep hens for eggs year-round but also raise meat birds in the summer. I make my filling in the pan and then sneak a layer of tortillas underneath. Top with another layer of tortillas, more sauce and cheese and I haven’t had any complaints about this meal. So easy in one pan!

— John Baron

PCC replies: Thank you for reading our Sound Consumer article about cast iron cooking and Jackie Freeman’s cookbook! Your meal idea sounds delightful.


We love Wendy Wahman

Wendy Wahman‘s illustrations are ADORABLE! I really enjoyed them and they drew my attention to the products they included (in the holiday Sound Consumer).

— Diana Kimball, PCC member

PCC replies: We couldn’t agree morethose illustrations made us smile, and we feel lucky that Wendy, who is also the author-illustrator of several children’s books, is a regular contributor. (See here.) Thank you for reading the Sound Consumer and supporting PCC.


Ethics and company ownership

I’m wondering if you make decisions about the products you carry based on the company that owns the brand you are selling. For instance, you sell products by Nuun and by Garden of Life, which are both owned by Nestle. I would hope PCC is aware of Nestle’s widely held reputation as being extremely unethical. An article on Nestle is on the “Ethical Consumer” site.

Thanks for all you do and looking forward to your response.

— Heidi Ochsner

PCC replies: Thank you for writing us on the topic of Nestle’s ownership of brands such as Nuun and Garden of Life. We share your concern about the many environmental and humanitarian issues throughout our food and consumer goods supply chain and do our best to address as many as we can.

Many of the brands we carry are owned by larger companies whose practices have been called into question. There are so many of these products these days that, if we stopped carrying all of them, our shelves would be pretty empty. While we continually monitor these kinds of issues, advocate for improvements, and evaluate our products with these issues in mind, on many of these products we have chosen to let consumers make their own decisions about these brands and vote with your dollars.

Additionally, many brands operate independently from their parent companies, so at PCC we typically evaluate the sustainability of a brand based upon their own practices and alignment with our product standards. Garden of Life, for example, is a mission-driven brand that has obtained numerous sustainability certifications, including USDA organic, Non-GMO Project verified, and the Marine Stewardship Council certification for sustainable seafood. The company has also committed to reducing its climate impact, achieving carbon neutrality in 2021. Business practices such as these, which benefit people and the planet, are ones that PCC wants to continue supporting. 

We will be sure to share your concerns and recommendations with our Quality Standards Committee, as we always welcome input on issues like these. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your concerns.


Selling meat

In response to the letter in the November-December 2022 Sound Consumer asking PCC to cut back on selling meat, I respectfully disagree.

I’ve tried a number of diets in my life, including veganism. Three years of eating a completely plant-based diet left me sick and mentally foggy, with aching teeth and mood and memory problems. All of these problems were resolved quickly when I added animal foods back into my diet.

Like many people I have concerns about the mistreatment of animals. For this reason, I buy meat only from small family farms where the animals are treated with attentive care and are slaughtered as painlessly as possible. I hope PCC will always keep offering such products.

Regarding animal farming operations destroying the Amazon, land being cleared to grow soy is a bigger issue. Small family farms like the ones PCC buys from are not the ones driving global warming.

If people want to eat vegan diets, I wish them well, but many people do better on omnivorous diets.

Take care,

PCC replies: Thank you for writing and sharing your perspective. We appreciate hearing different viewpoints from our community.


Making great cake

I just wanted to let you know, recently I had fun making and sharing cake from a recipe I saved from one of your newsletters. The Finnish Buttermilk Cake is so yummy and easy to make! Thank you, PCC!

PCC replies: We’re so glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe! If you are ever looking for specific topics, resources or recipes, please let us know. We love knowing what our customers are enjoying and what they are interested in trying next.

Also in this issue

From grape to glass

Join PCC’s “Wine Guys” as they design a great red blend from local grapes, proving that “you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money to drink well.”


Farmer Frog started with a school garden and now helps an astonishing 460 partner organizations get fresh produce to people who need it.

News Bites

Food and farming center • Using online recipes • Vashon farmland preserved • Edible winter peas • Lobster sustainability • Pesticides and arthritis • King County solar power • Meatpacking grants • Stink bug surge • Antarctic conservation • Vegan WIC foods • Washington watersheds • Vaccine for bees • Deere tractor repair • Bristol Bay preservation