Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | March 2006

Letters must be kept to 250 words or less and include a name, address and daytime phone number for verification or they cannot be published. We reserve the right to edit for space, clarity and accuracy. Please e-mail letters to


Saturated fats

Thanks for printing Cherie Calbom’s article, “The Surprising Truth about Saturated Fats.” Many people who are doing their best to eat naturally still are under the impression that polyunsaturated oils, margarines, etc., are “healthy” and that natural saturated fats such as organic coconut oil, which have been used safely around the world for centuries, cause heart disease. So many studies suggest the opposite — that natural saturated fats are much healthier than vegetable oils — that her article deserved the front-page exposure you gave it.
— Nils Osmar

This month’s lead article was quite eye opening. Like many other people I’ve tried to avoid saturated fats and now this article says that I should have been avoiding safflower oil and other vegetable oils just as much. I don’t doubt the article was accurate, but I feel like I need more information.

Where does olive oil fit into this picture, as well as canola and peanut oils? I’ve never looked at labels for cheese and other dairy products to see if the milk they’re made from came from grass-fed cows. Is that information on the label? I’m also not clear on which poultry products are considered to have healthy saturated fats.

This is fascinating and useful information, but it is going to take a while to get used to. Thank you for the new insights.
— Paul Rogers, Seattle

Cherie Calbom, M.S., replies: I recommend extra-virgin olive oil and unrefined peanut oil for cold foods and salad dressings, but not cooking. Actually, even unrefined olive oil (and unrefined peanut oil) are ok over very low heat, but most people use too high a heat and that damages it, creating unhealthy oxidized fats.

My article focused on the importance of quality saturated fats such as extra-virgin coconut oil and ghee (clarified butter) for medium and high heat cooking. They’re traditional, quality saturated oils that have stood the test of time and modern research.

High oleic oils (Spectrum’s Super Safflower, Super Canola and High-Heat Sunflower oils) also can tolerate high heat; they’ve been developed through natural plant breeding methods and hybridization (not genetic engineering) to tolerate high heat without damage. But they’re outside the topic of saturates. Discussing other oils is a huge conversation. For a good discussion of canola oil, see Spectrum’s Web site www.spectrumnaturals.com. FYI, all oils at PCC are processed without the use of harsh chemicals.

Editor: Dairy foods aren’t labeled to say if they’re from grass-fed cows/sheep/goats. But all Organic Valley dairy products come from cows with good pasture access, as do Samish Bay, Sally Jackson, Golden Glen, Beechers and our European cheeses. Poultry birds naturally eat seeds and grain; PCC’s Ranger and Rosie chickens are free-range, meaning they could consume greens, too.


Access to pasture

Thank you for printing Access to Pasture for Organic Dairy in the January Sound Consumer. I write concerning the Horizon Organic brand milk products found in PCC stores.

As mentioned in your article, Horizon was exposed for sourcing its milk from Aurora Dairy, a factory-style farm where cows mostly are confined to dirt pens and fed hay and grain from troughs. Although Horizon claims it no longer is purchasing from Aurora, the Cornucopia Institute says Horizon still is purchasing from other factory-style farms. This is of great concern to me as a PCC member.

Clearly, there’s a need for a measurable and enforceable standard for all certified organic dairy operations. I’ve expressed my concerns to the USDA and I encourage other members to do the same. Allowing these manufacturers to claim “organic” on their labels is threatening the integrity of organic standards and decreasing consumer confidence in the USDA “certified organic” logo.

I’m confident and hopeful that with strong encouragement from consumers, the pasture grazing standards recommended by the National Organic Standards Board will be implemented by the USDA. In the meantime, I ask that PCC remove all Horizon Organic products from its shelves, until Horizon Organic can prove adequately that it’s purchasing its milk from small, family farms that offer their cows adequate access to pasture.
— Kori Clot, Seattle

Editor: Thank you for writing the USDA. PCC also is very concerned about the integrity of rules on access to pasture, which is why we made it a front-page story. Removing Horizon from PCC has been discussed among our buyers and management, but it’s not a black and white decision. Most of Horizon’s milk is sourced from small, family farms — Horizon says 75 percent — and pulling Horizon could hurt those farmers.

The other part of the equation is that demand for organic milk exceeds supply by 10 to 15 percent. We’re considering options to Horizon, but we don’t know yet if some other organic dairy brands are any better about not sourcing ANY milk from dairies that could be considered confined feedlot operations with only token pasture access.

The combination of a price premium for organic, the supply shortage, and the refusal of USDA so far to allow clarification on “access to pasture” has allowed some to skirt the edges of organic standards. Organic Valley stands out for its firm commitment to family-scale farms with pastured cows; it refuses to do business with dairies running feedlot operations.


More on microwaved food

Thanks a lot for the article on microwaved food (January Sound Consumer). You give us a quality newspaper. I always look forward to seeing the content and layout. I appreciate your efforts.
— Anne Taylor

The resources listed for the article on microwaved food are impressive. For Sound Consumer readers whose concerns were raised by this information, I would have them read “Microwave Myths: Fact vs. Fiction” by David Schardt, which appears in the Nutrition Action Newsletter, April 2005. In it, he counters some of the very poor science that is given credence in the Sound Consumer article.

Hopefully, this will allay some people’s fear and convince others that they should not believe everything that they read on the Internet.
— Steve McFadden

Editor: The Nutrition Action Newsletter alleges that two of the seven studies cited by Sound Consumer were not peer-reviewed or published (not necessarily a contradiction of findings) and that one food scientist says too much water was used to microwave broccoli excessively in another study. Yet research at Stanford University and research published by the Lancet, Pediatrics, and the Journal of Natural Sciences was not addressed.

What concerns me most as a consumer is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s failure to review any of this research. I e-mailed and called the FDA last fall to discuss what, if any, research the FDA has conducted or reviewed on the safety of microwaved food.

Recently, I was finally put in touch with a radiation expert at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. He said the FDA decided in 1968 that microwaved food was safe. In the 38 years since, he said the FDA has not conducted any research of its own and no, the FDA wasn’t aware of and has not reviewed any of the studies cited.

“It hasn’t been on the agenda to review the literature,” he said. This “don’t look, don’t find” position highlights the need for more research.


Bulk fruit anyone?

I recently contacted the View Ridge deli to inquire about the possibility of purchasing dried fruit in bulk. I was informed that the minimum order is 25 pounds, as the distributor finds it inefficient to make up smaller amounts.

My family consumes several pounds of a variety of dried fruits per month. If we could buy 5-, 10-, or 15-pound packages, we could avoid the excess packaging generated by half and one-pound bags. Please consider allowing us to purchase through the deli again. We’d happily give several weeks notice to assist in keeping inventory under control.
— Jen Witsoe

Deli Merchandiser Jan Thompson replies: We called Jen and agreed to throw out a proposal to our members. Here it is: If any other PCC member is interested in sharing a 25-pound order of dried fruit with Jen, we’ll order it and you can divvy it up among yourselves. Jen wants raisins, apricots, prunes, dates and figs and would prefer to pick them up at either the View Ridge, Greenlake or Fremont store. If you’re interested, please call Jen at 206-729-1187, per her request.


On heroes

José Bové doesn’t deserve any accolades, much less the “hero” title bestowed on him by Jeff Cox (Heroes are Hard to Find, January Sound Consumer).

Bové didn’t “dismantle” a McDonald’s restaurant: he drove through the (construction site). Should we all destroy what we don’t like? PCC is open on the Sabbath, which some believe is a greater sin than selling fast food. Should we break its windows? Putting Bové in the same category as Rosa Parks and Thomas Paine is both insulting and misguided.
— Doug Newland

I read “Heroes are Hard to Find” and it talked about an activist who encouraged people to boycott Monsanto. I’m not familiar with the products Monsanto produces. Is there some way you could publish a list that would further explain what Monsanto items it would be beneficial to boycott?
— Jeannie Lisy

Editor: I hear this request with some frequency, but the list of Monsanto’s investments and financial interests would take an entire Sound Consumer. I suggest you visit www.mindfully.org (click on the “Farm” topic, then at the top of that page in the highlighted box see “Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Monsanto’s Modus Operandi.”)

Monsanto touts acquisition of a global fruit and vegetable seed company as completing its “transformation as a leader in seeds and traits.” Monsanto now controls 25 to 38 percent of the world’s seeds in beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and hot and sweet peppers. To avoid Monsanto seeds, I’d suggest buying only organic seeds.

Visit Monsanto’s Web site www.monsanto.com/monsanto/layout/products/ to see what it says, too. If you wish to keep your mutual fund investments Monsanto-free, visit www.ethicalinvesting.com.

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