Letters to the editor

This article was originally published in June 2023

New co-op greetings

For 20 years in my former home of Seattle, I was an avid PCC shopper. When, in 2017, events conspired to compel my relocation, I chose my birth town of Salt Lake City. I had heard that there was a move afoot to finally open a food co-op there, which was one of my incentives for choosing SLC as a renewed home. I moved in 2019 and I immediately joined the founding but storefront-wanting organization, Wasatch Cooperative Market, and became involved in outreach and other activities. The group started in 2009 and during its first 10 years grew steadily and cautiously to just over 700 member owners. Three years later, with membership climbing even through the difficult pandemic times, a potential storefront site was found and a strategy for acquisition was put in place.

We are now on our way to “brick-&-mortar”! All the stops are out to sweep in as many new members as we can and the excitement is building as the word gets around that we will soon be a real store, with doors scheduled to open in summer of 2024. The location of our future co-op is on the newly redeveloped 900 South corridor, a.k.a. Harvey Milk Boulevard, with transit and bike lanes at our front door and leading to the nearest light rail station. Our store will be a renovated building from an age when roofs were sometimes built with arched wooden beams and attractive brickwork. These details will be preserved. The building will be heated with geothermal energy.

There is currently only one other food co-op in Utah, Moonflower Co-op in Moab, formalized in 2013, and we consider them our “big sister.” We could not be more thrilled at the potential to turn the page of food marketing in SLC, to provide an on- and off-season venue for selling local farm produce to complement our local vibrant farmers markets, and to have a positive, progressive influence on the community. We extend to all PCC members an invitation to visit us if you are in the area and join if you plan to relocate near us. For more information or to support our plans visit wasatch.coop.

— Evan A. Sugden (still an active PCC member)

PCC replies: Thank you for sharing this news and for supporting co-ops! We will look forward to hearing more and to visiting one day.

 

Body lotion ingredients

I just purchased the PCC/Hollingsworth Botanical Body Lotion. An article in the winter Sound Consumer states it is formulated to meet the co-op’s product standards.

I see lots of ingredients I don’t normally see. Can you tell me briefly how the PCC standards were formulated? Is there a graduated scale of safety for any of these chemicals? Did PCC model its standards after the European Union standards, which used to be much better than those in the United States?

— Anonymous

PCC replies: Thank you for reaching out about the ingredients in our new Private Label lotion from Hollingsworth Hemp Company. The lotion is formulated to meet PCC’s personal care products standard and contains ingredients that can be found in many other lotions carried at PCC. It may be helpful to know that lotions typically contain oils and water, along with emulsifying agents that help those two ingredients mix; alcohols are commonly used in lotions to help them absorb better without leaving an oily film on the skin. Additionally, when products contain water, they are more prone to spoiling, which is why they must have some type of preservative.

In developing the personal care product standard, we evaluated many different standards, including the regulations and legislation developed by the European Union. Additionally, when we evaluate specific ingredients, we consider available scientific data and international laws and regulations. 

All of PCC’s product standards, along with FAQs and the list of prohibited ingredients, are available on our website. We’d encourage you to follow this link to learn more about our Health and Body Care standards

Additionally, if you’re curious about any specific ingredients, we would suggest visiting the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, which has toxicity ratings for products and ingredients. 

We fully respect our shoppers’ choices to not purchase products with ingredients they wish to avoid. If you wish to avoid alcohols and emulsifiers we suggest considering lotion bars or body oils, which are also rich in skin-nourishing ingredients. We appreciate you taking the time to contact us, as it helps us understand what our shoppers care about.

 

Bulk bin soybeans

The winter Sound Consumer featured an archived picture of the bulk department that featured a bin of organic soybeans. I’m pleased to see that these were once sold at PCC, but why have they disappeared? Whole, organic soybeans are so healthy, but I can’t find them anywhere these days. Soybeans are one of the USA’s top agricultural exports, so it perplexes me why they are conspicuously absent from our store shelves.

— David Fox, Kirkland

PCC replies: Thank you for reading and for sending your question on soybeans. PCC stopped selling bulk organic soybeans in 2017 due to low demand. However, they can still be ordered by the case (a 25-pound bag, in this case) from our supplier at any PCC store, and PCC offers a 10% discount for items ordered by the case. As for demand, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says in a 2015 fact sheet than 70% of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are used for animal feed, though a small acreage of “food grade organic soybeans” is used for tofu and tempeh and such. We agree there is a lot of room for a revival and will consider stocking them in bulk again if demand increases.

 

Plastic containers

All the dried fruit has retreated into plastic clamshell containers, making more waste and higher prices. COVID-19 has retreated, can’t we have our raisins and apricots outside the clamshells again?

— Dass Adams, Seattle
(I shop View Ridge!)

PCC replies: Thank you very much for the question and for working to reduce the use of single-use plastics, a goal we share (see our progress in the PCC Purposes Report highlights on page 11). Certain bulk items are still in plastic clamshells partly because of new health department restrictions on such “ready-to-eat” bulk items. PCC is currently reviewing the wording to see if some of these items can be returned to the bins. However, dried fruits stay fresh for longer in the clamshell containers, and we are also weighing that factor when looking at slower-selling “ready to eat” items that can’t be packaged in reusable containers regardless. We appreciate your question and shared the request with our grocery merchandisers to be on the lookout for options. 

 

Vitamin labels

Recently, the “Ask Well” column in the New York Times advised readers to look for the USP Verified Mark on vitamins, “which indicates that the product contains the ingredients listed on the label and does not contain harmful contaminants.” I am interested to know why PCC does not require this on its vitamins. I searched for Vitamin D with a USP mark at the Ballard store yesterday and did not see any. Nor did I see any reference to USP on the PDF of your Product Sustainability Standard: Health & Body Care Supplements & Medicine on your website. Can you explain why you do not employ this standard in product selection?

— Michael Kucher,
PCC member since 2003

PCC replies: Thank you for your question about the USP Verified Mark. The USP verification is just one of many third-party verifications that a brand can choose to use. USP verification is isolated to lab-made vitamins, so it is not eligible for food-based nutrient additions. USP Verified is most commonly seen on products found in the vitamin aisle in drug stores. Many of these products, especially vitamin D, contain artificial colors or inferior fillers/excipients like GMO soy oil. 

 These fillers and excipients are one of the main differentiators between drugstore vitamins and those you find in nutrition focused and natural foods stores. In the industry, these are often called premium brands versus generic/basic essentials. Other differentiators of premium supplemental offerings include food-based nutrients, allergen-free formulations, superior forms of nutrients (for instance, chelated minerals, patented herbal extracts, better absorbed isolates) and synergistic blends (such as Vitamin C with rose hips and bioflavonoids for increased absorption and immune support). 

 We work to ensure that our brand selections meet cGMP Standards, which are mentioned in the article, and contain quality ingredients within the “other ingredients” panel (fillers/excipients). In particular, our PCC branded supplements are made in an FDA pharmaceutical-compliant facility and are tested both internally, as well as by a third party, for quality assurance and label claims. We hope this offers the insights you are looking for, but please don’t hesitate to share any follow-up questions.

 

Coffee quality tests

Do you know if PCC organic coffee is mold/mycotoxin free? Thank you!

— Anonymous

PCC replies: Thank you for writing and for your question. We talked to the producer we partner with on our coffee, Bellingham-based Tony’s Coffee, and learned that any coffee they produce is tested for mold and mycotoxins, both internally and by their supply chain partners. Internally, they comprehensively test the coffees for moisture content, which is the primary indicator of any potential mold growth. Furthermore, all the coffees pass through rigorous sensory analysis before shipping out to customers. They take great pride in sourcing coffees that are properly stored and transported to eliminate the risk of defects such as mold. 

Also in this issue

The Life Cycle of a Farmer

What does “success” look like for a small independent farmer through the years?

Hyperlocal composting with Restaurant 2 Garden

A pilot project in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District is transforming neighborhood food waste into neighborhood compost.

Community2Community supports Washington’s first cooperative farm

Community2Community, a grassroots organization dedicated to food sovereignty and immigrant rights, is helping buy land for a co-op owned and run by farmworkers.