Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | December 2008
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
Food bank donations
I’ve been hearing the news that food banks are really feeling the pinch. When I read Tom Monahan’s comments on the front page of the October issue it prompted me to urge others to play my game. Whenever I use my 10% coupon I donate $10 to the PCC Food Bank. It doesn’t seem like much but it adds up. For those who can afford it, go ahead, play my game and help those in need.
— Ann LeVasseur, Seattle
We all know how to cut energy use when it comes to transportation but I rarely hear about ways to cut usage at home. In fact, I remember a brief article appearing in the Sound Consumer a few years ago, in which a naturopath recommended that people stay warm at all times during winter months for best health. To me, this was a statement that didn’t really fit in with our conservative nature.
My husband and I work at home. We’ve been keeping it at 65º all day but it feels very chilly since we are doing seated work. At night I bring it down to 62 and everyone is very cold. My daughter has not been able to get through a night in her own bed since turning it down, despite extra blankets and warm pajamas. Previously, we kept it at a cozy 72 to 75 during the day and 68 at night but understand that we had a 92-year-old grandma living with us.
My husband and I have been in disagreement. I think most people keep it around 65. He says that over 70 is the norm.
I’m hoping to get some feedback from Sound Consumer readers about what they’re keeping their thermostats at during winter months. They can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we get a lot, I will summarize and send to you to print.
Keep up the good work. I love Sound Consumer and I love PCC!
— KM, Bothell
Newspaper ink, GMOs and worm bins
I’m stymied. I just bought a worm bin and the instructions included with it (as well as instructions I have found on other Internet sites) say to shred newspaper and moisten it. Is newsprint really safe for my organic garden? I know that some businesses (and maybe you’re one) use soy-based ink, but is the soy genetically modified (GM)? Is there a safe, organic substitute? Many thanks for your time and research,
— Karin McCullough, Seattle
Editor: Yes, it’s likely that soy-based inks are made from GM soy since 92 percent of the U.S. soy crop is genetically modified. Our friends at Seattle Tilth suggest using raked leaves and twigs, coconut coir (available at nurseries), sawdust, small woodchips, cardboard, soiled napkins, toilet paper rolls, egg cartons (parts without ink) or even rinsed, dried seaweed (not kelp) as an amendment in worm bins.
Microwaved food safety?
It’s really amazing that some badly informed people still believe that microwave ovens can somehow do something to food other than just make it hotter. That’s all that microwaves can do, increase the temperature.
The physics of it is that microwave radiation (non-ionizing, but that’s another story) makes the electron orbits in water molecules wiggle a lot harder than at room temperature, heating the water part of the food and thus the rest of the food, too. When you remove the item being heated from the oven, the water molecules go back to being ordinary water molecules, albeit somewhat hotter.
There isn’t any qualitative difference between food heated by microwaves and wood fires and all the things in between except that microwaves use a lot less energy.
— John Watt
In response to Buck McCrone’s letter (Microwaved food safety?, October 2008 Sound Consumer) regarding the safety of microwaved foods: though it’s unfortunate that there isn’t much recent research on the topic, past research and intuition itself tells us this may just be the worst thing we can do to our food.
Microwaving implies radiation. In employing such a method of “cooking” (if you can call it that!) the molecular integrity of our food is completely destroyed and rearranged, in a manner that is far more severe and detrimental than any traditional approach to food preparation. We have already seen from past studies that nutrients are not only destroyed, but essentially are transformed into damaging, disease-causing molecules.
In terms of energy, the subtle qi that is inherent in our source of nourishment is entirely diminished. For an astounding visual representation of the effect of microwaving on molecular structure, see Masaru Emoto’s book “The Miracle of Water.”
Really, the simple fact alone that this form of radiation is effective in heating food precisely because of its ability to rearrange molecules should cause alarms to go off. This unchecked denaturing of our food is entirely counter-intuitive and for good reason!
Furthermore, cooking over a flame, or other traditional food preparation methods not only work to enhance the digestibility of food and the assimilation of nutrients, but also strengthen the connection with our food. Microwaving, however, is yet another reckless attempt to encourage us to have minimal contact with what we are putting into our bodies.
— Sara Bowes, Seattle
Cranberries and pesticides?
Could you help me find info about pesticide-fungicide contamination of cranberries? Are they among the top “baddies”? (Why bother to grind up pesticides for health?) The price difference is significant. I usually make many quarts of uncooked cranberry, orange, apple and lemon sauce (from an old PCC recipe) and we use it all winter for health and for sauce. So does it have to be organic? Thanks for your help.
— Merry O’Brien
PCC Nutrition Educator Goldie Caughlan replies: Yes, if you’re concerned about pesticide contamination, we’d advise choosing organic cranberries. According to The Organic Center, a non-profit research group in Oregon, domestically grown non-organic cranberries are one of the eight fruits posing the greatest risk of pesticide exposure. The other seven in that group are nectarines, peaches, strawberries, pears, apples, cherries and cantaloupe.
For more on pesticide risks from domestic vegetables and imported fruits and vegetables, visit www.organiccenter.org. See The Organic Essentials pocket guide to reducing pesticide risk exposure and “Simplifying the Pesticide Risk Equation,” a March 2008 report found under the State of Science tab, TOC Funded Programs.
Bisphenol-A in plastic food containers?
It’s nice to know about PCC’s proactive activities surrounding bisphenol-A sources in the food we PCC shoppers purchase. Certain canned food, water bottles, cups and other products have been identified as sources of bisphenol-A. In the interest of customer health and safety, many of these items have been removed from PCC stores.
Have the bulk food bins in PCC stores been investigated for their material content? The bins themselves are likely made of acrylic, possibly polycarbonate (a bisphenol-A source), or even a blend of acrylic and polycarbonate. The chutes and valves are likely made of polycarbonate.
It would be unfortunate for PCC to be accepting organically packaged bulk items from wholesalers and then unwittingly contaminating these items by placing them for sale in toxic dispensers.
— Nathan Chapman, Bellingham
Editor replies: We’ve learned that our store bulk bins are #7 plastics made by NewLeaf Designs. Now, understand that while it’s true all polycarbonates are marked with the #7 symbol, not all #7 plastics are polycarbonates, which do contain bisphenol-A (BPA). So we asked NewLeaf Designs (in August) if their #7 bins do or do not contain BPA; a spokesperson said they’d look into it and would get back to us but we still have not received an answer. We’ve reminded them that we do expect a reply!
FYI, just because a container is marked with a triangle around a number does NOT mean that plastic is recyclable; the triangle and number indicate ONLY what type of plastic resin the container is made from.
I’m writing in response to a letter that appeared in the September  Sound Consumer regarding raw milk sold at PCC (see Raw milk). Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep or goats that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria that contaminate the milk. Raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses.
These illnesses can be particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, children and people with cancer, an organ transplant or HIV/AIDS. Germs found in raw milk and raw dairy products can be especially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies.
PCC customers should know that research shows no meaningful difference in the nutritional values of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk and that health or nutritional benefits from consuming raw milk have not been proven scientifically. — Jeffrey Duchin, MD, Public Health, Seattle & King County
Donate your diet to science
Having recently complained in a letter to the editor about PCC’s overuse of sweeteners, I would like to suggest a solution. Let’s donate our dietary habits to science, so fellow citizens can learn from our good choices and our mistakes.
Merchandisers already track our purchases with the swipe of a grocery card, so why not let researchers compare, anonymously, our food choices to our medical data to see what long-lived people tend to eat, and what leads to diabetes or heart disease. Through the power of statistics, using data optionally donated, we could finally find out what foods are actually good for us — and what we should avoid.
Let’s take it a step further and use purchase/health data to figure out dollar amounts for what sugar, salt, white flour and fat contribute to dental and health care costs, and then put into the price of each product an amount commensurate with the quantity of unhealthy ingredients in the product. PCC (and other grocers) then could direct this “responsibility tax” toward a “many-payer” health care system that would link our (and our producers’) choices to health care costs.
Under such a system, better products and consumer choices would be made; we would live longer, healthier lives; health care costs would go down; and we would be able to fund health care for all.
— Steve Richmond, West Seattle