Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | February 2009

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


New Secretary of Ag

I’d like to hear PCC’s comments about Barack Obama’s appointment of the new secretary of agriculture. It seems especially appropriate to see PCC’s response after your article, An eater’s digest for change, gave quite a bit of space to Obama’s views on agriculture in the December issue. Thank you. — Renee Fischer

Editor replies: For some organic and sustainable ag interests, Tom Vilsack is a disappointing nominee. They claim he has been an unabashed proponent for genetically modified (GM) crops, reportedly initiating a 2005 bill to prevent local authorities from regulating GM crops. He also reportedly has supported animal cloning, unsustainable corn- and soy-based biofuels and concentrated animal feedlots.

On the other hand, Vilsack supports conservation efforts and capping federal commodity subsidies. Vilsack also has urged more food production on the local level (his wife reportedly is a champion of farmers markets and local food systems). Some sources suggest we shouldn’t worry too much about Vilsack; they claim he has changed his mind somewhat about GM crops. A lot will depend on who is appointed for Deputy Secretary and other key positions. These less visible positions actually have great influence on the operational impact of the agency. The best approach may be to point out the failed policies based on past positions, and continue to focus our energies on building the rural/urban coalition for a new food system.


U.S. vs. Chinese honey

Thank you for being a trustworthy local business. I encourage you to carry as many verifiably local products as possible. The “honey” exposé in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer made me want to shop at PCC even more often.
— Kathy Repass

Editor replies: Most of our honey is produced in the United States, although a few are from Brazil, Canada, Argentina and New Zealand. All vendors have verified their sources, none of it from China.

FYI, for those who missed it, the P-I article explained how Chinese honey contaminated with a toxic antibiotic was “laundered” through circuitous means to be smuggled into U.S. markets.


Raw milk

I just want to share that your carrot cake and a glass of raw milk has become for me a heavenly combination. Raw milk has renewed my interest in milk, which previously had lost any appeal. It really is on another level, both for its taste and nutrition.

I was disappointed you published the “text book” letter regarding raw milk without a response (Raw Milk, December 2008 Sound Consumer) and believe there’s a book that should be for sale in your stores. It’s called “Real Food: What to Eat and Why,” by Nina Planck. It’s well written, easy to understand, and supported by lots of scientific research.

It says, “Pasteurization destroys folic acid and vitamins A, B6 and C ... (and) inactivates the enzymes required to absorb the nutrients in milk: lipase (to digest fats); lactase (to digest lactose); and phosphatase (to absorb calcium). Phosphatase explains why raw milk contains more available calcium. Pasteurization also creates oxidized cholesterol, alters milk proteins, and damages omega-3 fats. Heat destroys or damages lactic acid bacteria in raw milk — the same beneficial bacteria in yogurt that aid digestion and immunity ...”

Not only does the book extol the virtues of raw milk, it also dispels many other common misinformed American myths regarding our diets. It will turn your American guilt about fats on its head.
— Whitney Kimball, Edmonds

Editor replies: The December letter cited above was from Seattle/King Co. Public Health, reminding us that raw milk can carry dangerous bacteria and cause foodborne illness.


Chinese products contaminated

A few months ago I purchased some Goji berries that were certified organic but imported from China and also labeled Chinese wolfberries. Later I found this website www.gojiberry.com that also sells Goji berries. It claims to have tested Chinese Goji berries and found them full of DDT and other pesticides. It also claims the Chinese Wolfberry is related to the Goji berry but is not the same and does not share all the same health benefits.

Once again, we cannot trust products from China. Their “certified organic” label is a meaningless stamp that has people fooled into believing there’s some organic standard that’s being adhered to.

We’re aware of Chinese contaminated baby formula, children’s toys with leaded paint, and toxic fillers that made their way into some American toothpastes. Please investigate products that originate in China and ask manufacturers to investigate ingredients if imported from there. It would be a great service to us members.
— Linda Borland, Bellevue

Editor replies: We share your concerns about sourcing foreign products that we cannot trace easily, including non-organic foods from China. (Truth is, only about 1 percent of all imported foods are inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.) However, organic certification does provide traceability and certifying inspectors can and do require testing for contaminants if they have reason to believe it’s an issue. Because of these two specific provisions, organic certification is more reliable than claims not verified by an independent third party.

Simply because a product comes from Tibet does not necessarily mean that it’s any purer or safer. The Web site mentioned says its berries come from “remote Himalayan valleys untouched by any pollutants, contaminates or pesticides” and that may be true. I hope so! But a quick Google of “DDT Tibet” turned up several reports, including a firsthand account and another in the scientific journal, Atmospheric Environment, indicating that toxic organochlorine pesticides containing DDT have been and still are used in Tibet, including the capital city Lhasa and the vast agricultural Lhasa River basin with all its valleys. So, remote doesn’t necessarily mean unpolluted. Even polar bears in the Arctic Circle are contaminated and no pesticides were applied there.


Choices in sugars and sweeteners

Thank you for your November [2009] feature on sweeteners (Choices in sugars and sweeteners). I am one of the people who gained tremendous benefit from this information.

I am a natural food consumer with multiple dietary restrictions and a focus on healthier eating. It sometimes is a struggle to participate in holiday potlucks with home-cooked food that meets both my own food priorities and is appealing to extended family and friends.

Because of the ease with which I could transition long-loved family recipes, I’ve introduced healthier choices to the people I love most. No one wants a nutritional lecture at Thanksgiving. They want to be wowed and wowing them so successfully was a joy for me. I have saved this section and will continue to use it for years to come!
— Name withheld on request


News bite was wrong

In case someone else hasn’t gotten to you first, the info you printed about Monsanto owning various retail seed companies appears to be wrong. It appears that some of the companies mentioned buy some of the seed they retail from Monsanto-owned Seminis. That’s a great difference from being owned by Monsanto.
— Don Bullard, Seattle

Editor replies: You are absolutely correct. The story was wrong, much to my chagrin, since accuracy is so important to me personally and professionally. We are only as good as our information! To remedy the mistake, I removed the incorrect Newsbite from our online issue, wrote a correction for publication (see News bites, Sound Consumer February 2009, or page 10 in the printed version) and posted it online, and apologized to various seed companies.

I also wrote Snopes.com, which specializes in addressing “urban legends,” asking it to address this erroneous information that continues to circulate largely through the Internet. Territorial Seeds told me they’ve traced the origin of the story back to a receptionist eight years ago.


Sharing Sound Consumer out of state

Do you have a PDF copy of the January Sound Consumer that I can send to my son? If not, can a copy be mailed to him in Texas?
— Vi Frederick, Freeland

Editor replies: The Sound Consumer always is readily accessible on our Web site, but not in PDF format. The archives include articles dating back through the year 2000.


Non-Styrofoam meat trays?

Thank you very much for confronting the meat tray issue in your newsletter. Recently I found myself staring at a pile of 16 meat trays on my kitchen counter wondering what on earth I was doing. Here I was purchasing the best meat I could find for my family, taking precautions to find local and organic. And on the other hand I was suddenly shocked by the amount of foam and plastic I was about to toss into the garbage can.

While I don’t know of a solution to the meat tray issue I am very happy that PCC is just as concerned as consumers and is actively working to make it better. Keep up the good work.
— Tricia Wells, Seattle

PCC Director of Sustainability, Diana Crane, replies: Thank you! We hope to source an acceptable meat tray alternative sooner than later. Our bag and container supplier, Bunzl, is working closely with us on moving ahead. Legally, retailers will be required to remove foam trays in July 2010.


Garbage without plastic?

I want to again applaud PCC’s commitment to preserving our environment by no longer offering plastic shopping bags.

While I use cloth bags to shop at PCC, I still get plastic bags from drug stores or other stores and then reuse them for garbage. When I can’t get away from plastic, e.g. kitchen garbage, I will look for biodegradable options. Unfortunately, living in an apartment doesn’t leave many options for composting since there isn’t sufficient space to support a compost bin or a garden to use the compost.

However, if anyone has any ideas, I would like to hear them. I could use ideas about how to dispose of the plastic bags I currently have without sending them to the landfill.
— Virginia Southas, Bellevue

Editor replies: We have a wonderful article on this topic — rethinking the need for kitchen garbage bags — slated for our March or April issue. In the meantime, ask yourself, how did our grandparents handle their kitchen garbage? Therein lies some of the answer!

More about: agriculture, cloning, food systems, GE crops, honey, milk, Monsanto, organic food, pesticides, shopping bags, sweeteners

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