Letters to editor
Sound Consumer | November 2010
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corn Refiners Association
Kudos on Goldie’s August article (Corn Refiners Association: these treacle tricksters are no treat!) on the recent disinformation push by the Corn Refiners Association on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
The dirty secrets about high fructose corn syrup have long been kept undercover and I’m not surprised at all to see slick Madison Avenue advertising applied to counter the rising awareness about the health problems of HFCS. I recently saw one of its fancy ads on TV and told my children what that was all about and how PCC had eliminated all food products with HFCS.
One thing I noticed, pointed out in the article, was that HFCS is promoted as providing consumer benefits and supporting food and beverage integrity. This patently avoids the issue of documented health problems and ignores the fact that other, organic products provide the same benefits. Also ignored is the genetically modified corn and taxpayer subsidies for the industry, none of which occur in organic agriculture.
Thanks for the well-researched and informative article. Please include future articles to further increase awareness and understanding of this unhealthy product and how it is being misrepresented.
— Russ Hamerly
I subscribe to your online news service, PCC Advocates, and am writing to thank you for making me aware of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) agenda to approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon.
For the past two years I have been appalled by the lack of FDA and government oversight when it comes to protecting our food supply as well as our environment. My anger and frustration propelled me to take action beyond signing a petition.
This week I launched a food advocacy blog that focuses not only on advocating for important food issues but also consumer awareness and empowerment. I think for too long consumers have been kept in the dark about how food is produced in this country and it’s time we stood up for ourselves.
So I was writing to thank you all for your hard work and also share a post where I profiled the PCC advocacy team. Look where it led me. All the best,
— Brenda Alvarez, Friedeggsandtoast.com
Editor replies: PCC Advocates is an opt-in service for people who wish to receive e-mails alerting them on issues affecting food and agriculture, and possible actions they might take. If you’re not signed up, visit PCC Advocates e-mail archives.
Truth about fats
I meant to send you an e-mail thanking you for the excellent article about fats (The truth about fats, October 2010), and for putting it on the cover of the PCC Sound Consumer.
Most people still seem deeply confused about the issue, which is understandable when dietitians and careless reporters so often repeat the official line that a low-fat diet or one rich in unsaturated fats is healthy. So people stop eating healthy foods like whole raw milk, and start eating damaging foods like margarine and unsaturated vegetable oils, imagining that they’re doing something good for their health.
It’s great that more folks are getting the message that saturated fats like organic extra virgin coconut oil are among the healthiest fats in the world.
— Barb Bowen
I read about the dangers of polyunsaturated fats with great interest, for the author’s thesis diverges from everything else I ever have read on the subject of fats. I wanted to read further and my first stop was the American Heart Association website because the author had stated, “The American Heart Association has discovered that people with heart disease all have one thing in common — inflammation. High cholesterol levels are not even on the list.”
On perusing this site, however, I was unable to find any references to support that statement. If there’s research supporting the premise of Cherie’s article, I would be extremely interested in reading it.
— Megan Davis
Ms. Calbom provides additional research and extensive citations in the online version of the article. Visit Additional research on saturated fats which was added to accompany the article.
The article in the October Sound Consumer about unsaturated and saturated fats is wrong, not misleading, but wrong and likely dangerous to readers who would take this misinformation to heart. Oxidized saturated fats accumulate in the plaque of blood vessels and unsaturated fats do not. It has been a SETTLED question for years that unsaturated fats in the diet reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, while a diet high in saturated fats increases the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
— Byron Gallis, Ph.D., Department of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Washington
Author Cherie Calbom replies: The question is anything but settled. Studies show unsaturated fats do show up in large quantities in the plaque of blood vessels. As mentioned in the article, a study at the Wynn Institute for Metabolic Research in London (Lancet, 1994) examined the composition of human aortic plaques. It found that the artery-clogging fats in those who died from heart disease were composed of 26 percent saturated fat and 74 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). They determined no association with saturated fats but rather implicated PUFAs, such as those found in polyunsaturated vegetable oils, as the primary contributors to aortic plaque formation and suggested that people avoid these oils completely.
No one is advocating that we eat gobs of saturated fat. However, if heart disease results from consumption of saturated fats, as we have been told, we would expect a corresponding increase in animal fat in the American diet. Actually, the reverse is true. From 1910 to 1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83 percent to 62 percent, and butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person per year to four. Since the 1930s, dietary cholesterol intake has increased only 1 percent but the percentage of dietary vegetable oils, margarine, shortening and refined unsaturated oils increased about 400 percent (consumption of sugar and processed foods, another damaging factor, also increased about 60 percent).
In March the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” published a meta-analysis — combining data from several studies — that compared the reported daily food intake of nearly 350,000 people against their risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a period of five to 23 years. The analysis, overseen by Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, found no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease. Consideration of age, sex and study quality did not change the results.
See Additional research on saturated fats for more research and citations.
BPA in receipt tapes
Recent research in “Science News” indicates that “[c]ash register and other receipts may expose people to substantial amounts of biphenol A (BPA).” Two studies show that when BPA-coated receipts are touched, the BPA is easily transferred to fingers. One study presents evidence that once on the skin, a BPA coating may be absorbed by the body. Keep in mind that BPA mimics and may disrupt normally occurring hormones. BPA exposure is associated with behavior problems in children, obesity, heart ailments and other health risks.
Upon reading the “Science News” article, I worried about cashiers who hand receipts to customers throughout their shifts. Does PCC use BPA-coated receipt tape?
— Denis F. Harney
Human Resources Director Nancy Taylor replies: We switched to a new register tape in August after learning that the two-sided paper used previously contained BPA. We made this change to reduce exposure to BPA wherever we can for staff and customers. BPA reportedly is in 40 percent of receipt tapes. We recommend throwing other receipts in the trash because recycling means BPA will resurface in other products.
Alternatives to Roundup®
In [October's] letters, Steve Richmond stated that using Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup is the safest, cheapest way to keep invasive weeds under control but neglected to provide any backup for that statement.
I’d like to see how much more it would cost to do hand cultivation. Summer jobs for youth are an important part of growing up and the city could provide a good service by setting up a youth job corps paying minimum wage that would keep those weeds under control.
But we need to see numbers and, if Mr. Richmond is going to make flat statements, one would assume he knows what it costs to pay for maintenance of the equipment, the cost of the chemicals, and the labor. One would assume he also knows what it would cost to do a youth summer work project. Otherwise, how can he say it’s cheaper? If he knows the numbers, he should share them.
— Margaret Bartley
I read with interest the letter about there not being a better economic alternative to Roundup. There has been 20 percent acetic acid (vinegar four times regular strength) available but it’s relatively costly as it primarily has been available only in retail packaging.
As a supplier to the horticultural industry, we’ve worked with a local vinegar producer to get this registered with the state for use as an herbicide, which we now have. We just began offering McConkey Green Choice Weed Killer in 5-gallon and larger containers (for commercial growers and landscapers) that we feel is an economical and safer alternative to Roundup. There are lots of articles available on the web about the use of vinegar to kill weeds so I won’t go into the details here.
— Ed McConkey, McConkey Company, Sumner
Avoiding palm oil
I was a little disappointed by your reply to Nathan Willams’ penetrating letter about the tragic impact of industrial palm oil plantations. I’ve witnessed them firsthand in Indonesia and they are ravaging the landscape and threatening both people and animals. I hoped to hear that PCC has (or is developing) some policy to steer shoppers away from products that are based on this destruction. Thanks, PCC!
— Phil Mitchell, Seattle
Editor replies: I wish we could get the information we need to do what you and PCC both want. But how would you recommend we go about identifying the source of the palm oil from manufacturers who claim not to know themselves?
As a grocery store, we rely on third-party experts, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, for information. We’d be thrilled if it tracked where unsustainable palm oil goes, to what wholesalers, through the supply chain. Consumers such as you and PCC are in the same boat. It’s frustrating and disappointing that we can’t trace ingredients in multi-ingredient processed foods.