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  • Reuters reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to audit the nation’s four largest beef packers -- Tyson, Cargill, Swift & Co., and Farmland Industries -- to make sure they are submitting the proper financial information to the government.

  • Wild Oats Markets reportedly opened a prototype for its new Henry’s Marketplace concept. The 22,000 sq.-ft. unit in Costa Mesa, Ca., features a low-profile, farmer’s market approach, with produce a dominant category.

  • The Associated Press reports that Northland Cranberries wants to spend $800 million (US) to acquire Ocean Spray Cranberries’ juice business. Northland is number two in the cranberry juice business, with Ocean Spray the number one player. However, there is some disagreement between the companies about the nature of the proposal; while Ocean Spray said it was an informal “expression of interest,” Northland CEO John Swendrowski, a former Ocean Spray exec, said it was a detailed proposal.

  • Starbucks announced that it is buying back its licensed operations in Switzerland and Austria, but that the move should affect 2003 earnings. Terms of the deal were not announced, though it is known that Starbucks now will own and operate 14 stores in Switzerland, and seven stores in Austria.

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