Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | March 2007

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Addressing controversial issues

Having read the controversies described in the January PCC Sound Consumer — such as Who owns organic? Chinese “organics,” and controversial ingredients in body care products — I can only think of how thankful I am that all these issues are being brought out into the open to someone who really cares and who is willing to pursue these matters.

It’s scary to think of what lurks in grocery stores where there is no apparent dialog between “them and us.”  Thank you for continuing to strive toward better health for all in such a challenging environment.
— Natala Goodman, Bellevue


The Stress Response

The front page article in the February Sound Consumer (The Stress Response) states that “noted health educator Dr. Pritikin died of a heart attack while jogging.” According to the Pritikin Research Foundation Web site, he died from complications related to leukemia.

The authors may have been thinking of Jim Fixx, author of the bestselling book “The Complete Book of Running,” who died of a heart attack during a run. I’ve read that Fixx had a classic type A personality and was hard-driving; stress certainly seems to have played a part in that case.
­— Achal Shah, Redmond

The writers respond: Our apologies. You’re right; we got our people mixed up. It was Fixx who died of a heart attack while running. He was 52 and it was 1984. Nathan Pritikin died in 1985 of leukemia, not heart disease. Both men started their quests for health after an initial diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.


Handwipes

Thank you for the article, Antimicrobial handwipes: a false sense of security? (January Sound Consumer). It made many good points.

As it points out, some antimicrobial wipes, such as those containing triclosan, cause problems and should be avoided. Even some brands that appear to be alcohol-based contain triclosan and could cause problems. But others, such as the brands that use only alcohol, don’t have these problems and might help prevent the spread of influenza, herpes simplex and other diseases.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve gone into a supermarket during flu season and seen other shoppers coughing, sneezing, wiping their faces and noses and then putting their hands on their carts — not to mention bins of produce, but that’s another issue. I’m not germ-phobic and don’t use antimicrobial products at home. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take an easy precaution like using an alcohol-based wipe that may help prevent spread of the flu and other illnesses.

Alcohol-based sanitizers may not offer a 100-percent guarantee, but as your article points out, they might help. Why not make them available and let customers decide for themselves? With good wishes,
— Nils Osmar

Editor: Keep in mind that stores offering wipes for customers also sell them, so there’s incentive to promote them at the door. Some stores have displays selling containers full of wipes right next to the free ones near the entrance. PCC would profit by doing this, too, but since the Centers for Disease Control says there’s little evidence to suggest shopping carts are a problem and that even alcohol wipes are of questionable value, we’ve chosen to stand for what we know.

The Washington Toxics Coalition reports that even alcohol wipes aren’t necessarily nontoxic; exposure to ethanol during pregnancy can cause birth defects. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports one possible reason ethanol and I-proponal (alcohols) are so toxic to living organisms is that they might damage membranes. The best protection is to keep your hands out of your nose, eyes and mouth; wash them after contacting dubious surfaces; and use good food-handling practices.


Charging customers for grocery bags?

My name is Natalie Kelley. I am 11 years old and live in Duvall. We homeschool and right now I am learning about reducing my environmental footprint through the book “Trash Action.” My family has been a member of PCC for about eight years. We always bring in our own canvas bags whenever we grocery shop. I know that you make donations for every bag we bring in and I think that is a great thing. But it doesn’t seem to motivate many people to bring their own bags.

According to “Trash Action,” “in Ireland grocery stores now charge about fifteen cents for each throwaway bag, resulting in a 90 percent decrease in the use of disposable bags.” I think that you should charge money for every plastic and paper bag people use for their groceries. Maybe this will make people mad but then they might start to bring their own bags. I really think you should do this. I think every grocery store should do this!

I think that if people get mad that they have to pay they don’t really care about the earth. If they get mad then they should just bring in their own bags like I said before. I think that people should feel good about helping the earth and should not get mad! I always feel good about it when I don’t use plastic bags and reuse things.
— Natalie Kelley, Duvall


Horizon, Silk, and Dean Foods

I notice that PCC carries Silk soymilk, a product of Dean Foods. Since PCC has stopped carrying Horizon, another Dean product, why are we still carrying Silk soymilk?
— Valerie Sammons

Grocery Merchandiser Stephanie Steiner replies: While Silk and Horizon both are owned by Dean Foods, Silk has nothing to do with the concerns that led to discontinuing Horizon (policies on pasturing, calving and growing herd size). PCC, in fact, took on pasture grazing and calving practices with all our organic dairy providers — but they don’t apply to soy products. It’s also questionable whether Silk, as a subsidiary of Dean Foods, should be held responsible for the actions of its corporate owner.


Organic milk in glass jugs?

I have been trying to avoid plastic products for quite a while and read the July Sound Consumer article on plastics. Shortly after I noticed that there was Straus brand milk at my local store (West Seattle). Straus offers milk in glass bottles but PCC is carrying it only in plastic. I was very surprised to see this. I think it’s kind of hypocritical to promote glass and reusable containers and then carry the plastic. Can’t we have a glass option for organic milk?
— Jan Cook

Grocery Merchandiser Stephanie Steiner replies: We did carry Straus milk in glass bottles a while back, but shoppers didn’t support this choice well enough to keep it in the mix. Also, we still need to address the issue of the environmental impact we create by shipping the empty bottles back to California. Currently, all of our milk in glass bottles is local; therefore, the empty bottles are not traveling very far.

You might consider the local hormone-free milk that we already carry in glass. If you prefer the organic Straus, we are happy to place a special order for you at any store. The product is only available to us in case packs of six, so teaming up with a friend might make this more feasible. As always, a full case order qualifies for our 10 percent case discount.


Please handle food with care

I’d like to bring to your attention something that has been concerning me for awhile. The checkers at more than one PCC store have a tendency to toss food to the end of the counter after ringing it up.

As anyone who’s spiritually aware knows, actions carry energy. Food — as much as or more than anything else — is sensitive to this energy. I don’t believe the checkers intend to be callous. I know the practical reason is to make it easier for the baggers to reach the food. Perhaps some changes in the setup, such as shorter counters, would help. Or maybe the checkers and baggers could work out a system where the food can be moved more gently.

A friend of mine has flat-out told checkers at other stores, “Please don’t throw my food.” I’ve refrained from doing this in person out of not wanting to upset anyone. If there’s anything PCC could do to address this matter, I suspect I’m not the only customer who would appreciate it. Thank you.
— Bill Sheets, Seattle

Store Systems Specialist Dennis Stoddard replies: This is an area that is addressed in training but needs to be reviewed from time to time. The reality is that it’s a by-product of repetitive motion and the desire to put items within reach of the baggers. Cashiers who are aware of proper handling and respect for the customer’s food will be more gentle than others who are not so sensitive, but even then, by the end of a 4- to 8-hour shift, self-control begins to diminish. Shortening the takeaway area (the area necessary for sorting and holding groceries) would not improve the situation. We already have some of the shortest takeaways in the business.

Customer Service Manager Mimi Simmons replies: I sent an e-mail letting all stores know we have received a complaint from a shopper and asking cashiers to treat food (and our shoppers) with more respect by sliding the food toward the bagger more gently.


Small farmers program in jeopardy

My husband and I were disturbed to learn from our farmer friends that the Washington state budget for the Small Farms and Direct Marketing Program may be significantly reduced. Our favorite apple grower told us that he spent a day last week in Olympia providing testimony about the importance of this program.

We’re faithful shoppers at the West Seattle farmers’ market. We appreciate the opportunity not only to buy better and fresher food but to make sure our dollars go directly into the pockets of the farmers who need every dollar to continue. Individual small farmers cannot afford expensive advocates or marketing plans so this program is important to help them stay in business.

We know that PCC is a friend to small farmers. Please consider contacting your representatives at www.leg.wa.gov/legislature. Click “Find Your Legislator” and encourage your representatives not to reduce the funding.
­— Ann and Gary Dawson

Editor replies: Governor Gregoire’s proposed budget recommends removing the “sunset clause” that would eliminate some of the funding. At press time, the legislature hadn’t yet approved any budget and until it does concerned citizens can call their representatives to say they want funding maintained.

More about: farming, milk, shopping bags

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