Greetings from the Co-op and Happy-almost-March! I hope you have had a manageable winter and are looking forward to longer days and new maple syrup.
If you have been in the Co-op recently, you’ll notice we are making some changes. In fact we are gearing up to replace a produce cooler which is the last piece of original refrigeration in the building. While we’re at it, we are taking the opportunity to consolidate all the wine and beer into the same part of the store and move some other items around to emphasize our fresh, organic and often-local fruits and veggies. Most of the work will happen overnight but please be prepared for some of your favorite products to be in new locations.
One of the Co-op’s most important functions is to select products for our customers based on your preferences and our mission of contributing to a healthy community, sustainable local food systems, and thriving cooperative commerce. It’s a big job and from time to time our buyers run into challenging questions regarding what and what not to offer. Here are a few that came up recently:
Pete Coleman of Vermont Salumi (who has a new local prosciutto out soon) pointed out that from a health perspective, artificial nitrates are no different from the celery juice powder used by some natural meat brands. So we looked into and he’s right: in either form, nitrates exposed to high temperatures and protein form nitrosamines which are a probable carcinogen and linked to various types of cancer. As a result, the FDA limits the amount of nitrite that can be added to processed meats and requires Vitamin C also be added. Today’s processed meats are considered far less problematic as a result but there is still a health concern. The Environmental Working Group advises us to minimize intake of cured/processed meats, look for options without added nitrates or nitrites in artificial or natural forms, and eat a diet high in antioxidants.
In another case, a local vendor informed us that a competing product with the word “Vermont” in its company name is not actually produced in state. According to our state Attorney General, this is allowed as long as the product indicates the geographic area where the product was made on the front panel. It seems counter-intuitive but it’s a case of “eater beware” when it comes to local.
Recently some customers have raised concerns about Poland Spring water and possible depletion of aquifers in Maine. According to our research, last year Poland Spring bottled 900 million gallons of water from the state of Maine and hydrologists do not believe that at this rate Poland Spring will deplete Maine’s groundwater during normal conditions. However, there is some evidence that during a period of drought, like the summer of 2016, bottling plants could exacerbate the drying up of wells, wetlands, and deplete streamflow. Whatever the source, bottled water is associated with a variety of health and environmental issues so we encourage customers to use refillable water bottles and take advantage of our free filtered city water station near the Co-op’s exit.
I hope these are useful examples of what goes into selecting the products we sell here at the Co-op. Our goal is to offer an assortment of products that meet your needs and serve our values of health, sustainability and community. If there are ways you think we can better meet that goal, please let us know- you can talk to an employee, fill out a suggestion form or email me at email@example.com.
Thank you for supporting our Co-op,