Product sourcing criteria | PCC Natural Markets

Product sourcing criteria

Quality and taste are PCC's top priorities

Sourcing products that meet our standards for great taste, quality, health and sustainability is an ongoing challenge and pleasure for PCC merchandisers.

The process is complex because of the wide range of customer needs, wants and expectations that we respect and work to satisfy. The care taken to select products that serve our shoppers' interests has been PCC's mission for more than 50 years.

Organic and local

PCC always gives preference to organic, locally produced products when other factors are equal.

Sustainable practices

PCC chooses to offer foods grown or produced in ways that respect and protect our natural resources.

We seek products that are produced under fair labor agreements that ensure equitable working conditions and fair compensation.

We choose meat and dairy products that honor the animal's natural behaviors and meet humane standards.

We choose body care products that are cruelty-free.

We give preference to foods and manufacturers that use lower-impact packaging and shipping methods.

Products and ingredients we do not allow

PCC quality standards reflect an understanding that what isn't in a food can be as important as what is.

PCC prohibits the following:

  • Harmful artificial ingredients, preservatives, colors and sweeteners
  • Artificial hormones and added antibiotics
  • Hydrogenated oils, artificial trans-fat, and high fructose corn syrup
  • Foods from cloned animals
  • Restricted minor ingredients and processing agents

Product and ingredient traceability

PCC is pleased that our fresh, perishable foods come with a high degree of traceability.

We know where our fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry, fish and dairy products come from because we know the farmer or rancher — or are within one or two steps from someone with first-hand information.

Traceability was one of the founding arguments for the USDA National Organic Program — to be able to trace back how a food was produced, who the farmer is, when he or she applied what fertilizers or compost, identifying what seeds were planted, what other inputs may have been used, and to verify that prohibited methods and pesticides were not ever used.

PCC has chosen voluntarily to be a certified organic retailer to ensure the organic integrity of the foods and products sold — all the way to the shopper's cart. Agents from the Washington State Department of Agriculture inspect our procedures each year and audit our record-keeping, to make sure product integrity is verifiable.


Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is a labeling law that requires retailers to notify customers with information about the source of certain foods. These foods are fresh fish and meat, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables (if not mixed), pecans, peanuts, macadamia nuts, and ginseng.

COOL is not required on those same foods if they're processed — for instance, breaded fish sticks — or made with exempt ingredients (such as chocolate or tomato sauce).

This means frozen peas must be labeled with the country of origin but if they're mixed with another vegetable, such as carrots and corn, they're exempt.


We purchase imported foods that are not readily available from U.S. sources. These include coffee, tea, chocolate, tropical fruits, some herbs, spices, teas, and some ethnic marinades, sauces and packaged items, such as pine nuts.

Consumer questions about imported foods generally are about food safety and quality standards for produce — fresh or frozen — from Latin America and China.

There have been a number of well-publicized recalls of Chinese imports in recent years but none of them involved organic products. PCC sells no fresh produce from China and only a few frozen produce items from China — all certified organic.

Virtually all the imported fresh produce at PCC is certified organic. All imported organic products must meet the same USDA standards as domestically produced foods. The new director of the USDA's National Organic Program is promising a new "Age of Enforcement" with penalties for violations, as well as increased staffing and oversight.

Consumer advocacy

PCC always advocates the consumer's right to choose and the right to an informed choice.

PCC encourages you to take action and contact food companies directly to express your food safety and ingredient concerns. Visit a company's Web site for its "Contact Us" options.

More about: country of origin labeling, organic food, trans fat