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    Published on: January 16, 2009

    Whole Foods yesterday said that is has refilled its case against the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US Court of Appeals, saying that it wanted to go directly to federal court in order to get a faster decision.

    The case charges that the FTC has violated Whole Foods’ right to due process and equal protection by going ahead with an administrative trial into Whole Foods’ $565 million acquisition of Wild Oats, which closed more than a year ago.

    “Whole Foods Market is interested in getting to the merits of this case as quickly as possible rather than spending everyone's valuable time and resources arguing about jurisdiction," said Jim Sud, executive vice president of growth and business development for Whole Foods Market. "Filing with the Court of Appeals, which the FTC concedes has jurisdiction over the case, saves time and we want to move this case forward in the most expeditious manner for all concerned."

    The FTC is arguing that the acquisition was anti-competitive and would result is less choice and higher prices for consumers, and it is seeking redress both in the courts and through its own administrative hearing; it actually is looking to unravel the merger, and is asking that Whole Foods rebrand all the Wild Oats stores that it has changed to its own banner, and that a trustee be named to run those stores as a separate company.

    The Whole Foods argument, essentially, is that the FTC doesn’t understand the mechanics of the marketplace.

    KC's View:
    It probably wouldn’t be a legitimate legal argument that the FTC seems to have its head up…well, maybe we shouldn't go there.

    If next Tuesday’s inauguration leads to a change in leadership at the FTC – which I assume it will – then it cannot come soon enough.

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that it will not require that meat and fish that have been genetically engineered be labeled as such, though the products from these animals will be required to go through a mandatory safety approval process.

    Consumers Union immediately decried the decision, saying it “blatantly ignored consumers’ right to choose,” and the result of a recent poll saying that 95 percent of shoppers favor such labeling.

    In criticizing the decision, Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, said, "This one-minute-to-midnight regulation is a final favor to industry delivered as the current FDA Administrator goes out the door … We hope the new Obama administration will reverse this ill-considered guidance and require labeling of genetically engineered meat and milk products as soon as possible after it takes office next week."

    KC's View:
    While I don't see this mentioned, I assume that the FDA also would frown on a company saying “not from genetically engineered animals” on packaging.

    Because heaven forbid we actually have that kind of transparency.

    I understand the issue here, but I continue to believe that this decision is deliberately anti-transparent, and that we as consumers have a right to know as much as possible.

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    A New York judge has ruled that Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis committed trademark infringement when he renamed one of his stores “Trader John’s” and redesigned it to look like a nearby Trader Joe’s.

    The suit was brought earlier this week by Trader Joe’s, which called it a “blatant attempt to confuse consumers and capitalize on Trader Joe's hard-earned goodwill.”

    Catsimatidis had defended his move by saying, “My name is John. I've been a trader all my life, and we don't think we've done anything wrong. We're on the other side of Fifth Avenue. It's a different world.”

    But the judge didn’t buy it.

    Local news reports say that Catsimatidis has covered up the “Trader” on the sign, and is looking for a new adjective to replace it that won’t irritate the competition.

    KC's View:
    I think it is a pretty good bet that it never will be Mayor John, which is what Catsimatidis says is his ultimate goal – to run New York City.

    Ain’t gonna happen.

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the Coca-Cola Co. is being sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which charges that the company has engaged in deceptive and misleading labeling of its VitaminWater line of beverages.

    According to the story, “The group said Coke markets VitaminWater as a healthful alternative to soda and said the company makes a range of assertions, including claims that the drinks variously reduce the risk of chronic disease and support immune function. The nonprofit's nutritionists say the levels of sugar in the drinks promote obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.”

    A Coke spokesman described the suit as “ridiculous,” saying that VitaminWater is completely and accurately labeled.

    CSPI said that its litigation department is serving as co-counsel in the suit, which reportedly will be seeking class-action status.

    KC's View:
    Sometimes transparency is perception as well as reality. I suspect that we’re going to be seeing a lot of these kinds of lawsuits, and it will remain for the courts to sort it all out.

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    Forbes reports that one year into the recession, community resistance to the building of Walmart stores has subsided to some degree, who see the chain as one of the few engines left for economic development.

    One study, conducted by the Saint Consulting Group, says that while 68 of survey respondents said they were anti-Walmart two years ago, that number is down to 56 percent. However, the group also says that people sometimes respond differently when the Walmart actually is going into their neighborhood.

    The story goes on, “Al Norman, the activist behind, says the level of community resistance to Wal-Mart has spiked sharply, not dropped. He says he expects at least 40% of any superstores that Wal-Mart proposes this year to be challenged, delayed or killed.

    “But the economy would appear to be helping Wal-Mart in its bid to promote supporters and minimize noisy opponents. The latter get firepower from groups and Web sites including, which describes how dozens of communities have fought off Wal-Marts.”

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    • Published reports say that Kellogg Co. is asking stores to stop selling peanut butter crackers sold under its Austin and Keebler brands, citing concerns that some of the peanut butter used in the crackers came from Peanut Corp. Of America, which has detected salmonella contamination in some of its products. This most recent salmonella outbreak reportedly has sickened 430 people in 43 states, and five deaths may be attributable to the contamination.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    • Royal Ahold said this morning that its total fourth quarter revenue was up 13 percent to the equivalent of $8.7 billion (US). In its US operations, Stop & Shop’s same store sales were up four percent, while they were up one percent at Giant of Landover and 5.7 percent at Giant of Carlisle.

    • France-based Carrefour said that its fourth quarter sales were up just 0.7 percent to the equivalent of $33.87 billion (US), and that its total 2008 sales were up 5.7 percent to $129.5 billion (US).

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    • Minyard Food Stores announced that Ron McDearmon, a 44-year veteran of the chain, has become the company’s third president and chief executive since 2006, succeeding Mike Byars, who has left the company.

    According to a statement from Minyard’s, “This has been part of our transition plan to a smaller Minyard-only chain since this summer. Mike was instrumental in developing and implementing that plan … He was brought in to the company to grow and manage a 70 store, three-banner company and lead it into a new direction with its Carnival banner and the launch of the flagship store in August 2006. Mike led the Minyard efforts to deal with the tough economic and retail environment and successfully restructured Minyard. He helped develop and successfully implement the transition plan and was instrumental in selecting the right team to move Minyard's forward.”

    • Target Corp. announced yesterday that president/CEO Gregg Steinhafel will take on the additional role of chairman when Bob Ulrich retires at the end of January.

    • The California Grocers Association (CGA) has hired Keri Bailey, most recently the Director of State Government Affairs for the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues as CGA’s Vice President, Government Relations.
    KC's View:

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    Yesterday, MorningNewsBeat reported that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is proposing that fish be renamed “sea kittens,” suggesting that such a change will increase awareness of fish feelings and cause people to stop catching and eating fish.

    My comment, in part:

    I think it is fair to say that PETA has completely taken leave of its senses.

    This is, just to keep things in perspective, the same group that urged Ben & Jerry’s to start making its ice cream with human breast milk instead of cow’s milk because milking cows is inherently cruel. (Of course, I can't imagine that an un-milked cow would feel all that comfortable, but that’s apparently not important.)

    To be clear here, I am not in favor of wanton cruelty to animals. Ever. I believe that fishing has to be done both responsibly and sustainably. (And I know a little bit about this, having just completed a video project about seafood that will be shown at next month’s CIES Food Safety Conference in Barcelona.)

    But fish are food, preferably, in my view, blackened and very spicy. Kittens are not. (Historically, that’s probably because it is tough to get the fur out of your teeth. Though if the recession turns into a depression, kitten stew could become a real delicacy…)

    There are some animal welfare issues out there that PETA could grapple with that would not reduce its credibility and image as a radical fringe organization. This isn’t one of them.

    This generated some responses.

    MNB user Amelia Kirchoff wrote:

    ”Though if the recession turns into a depression, kitten stew could become a real delicacy…)” That statement is in really bad taste. Think before you write.

    I know this may come as a surprise, but I actually thought long and hard before I wrote that. The “kitten stew” and “fur in the teeth” lines actually were the jokes that were in good taste…I’ll let you speculate about the others.

    One MNB user wrote:

    I’m not one of those people that feel the need to call a fish “a fish.” That being said, I like my Sea Kittens beer-battered with a side of fries.

    Thanks for an always entertaining jump-start to the morning.

    MNB user Wayne Godwin wrote:

    You’re sure to get a load of feedback on your PETA article, some good, some bad, but either way, let me know when you’re appearing at a comedy club, or Vegas, that was very funny!

    Not sure about Vegas, but…I can tell you that I appear here, Mondays through Fridays …and there’s no cover charge. Bring your own margaritas!

    MNB user Steve Read wrote:

    Oh, oh. Kevin, while I am sitting here laughing out loud, I bet that you are going to get some nasty emails regarding your “tasteless” comment on kitten stew!

    Actually, a lot fewer than you'd think. MNB, after all, has a pretty depraved audience.

    Which sort of answers the next email:

    Let us know next week what the score card on outrage was for this one.

    As a person who lives with a number of cats, I thought the line about the fur in the teeth was hilarious.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Finally – the good old non-PC Kevin of the past has returned! Welcome back.

    Never left.

    And MNB user Bob Vereen may get the prize for the funniest response…which actually referred to the previous Ben & Jerry’s/breast milk story:

    If Ben & Jerry is going to use human breast milk, how does one apply for milking chores?

    In a more serious vein, one MNB reader wrote:

    Members of PETA had just better hope they never get lice, since they would not in good conscience be able to rid themselves of these living beings. And I guess anti bacterial soap is out.

    Seems to me that plants (vegetables) are living beings, and scientific research shows that they grow better when exposed to music. If PETA is advocating vegetarianism, their members might want to consider the feelings of the vegetables they eat, too.

    KC's View:

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    Why am I thinking that PETA this morning is wringing its hands and gnashing its teeth about the poor birds that apparently ran into that US Airways jet yesterday in New York, causing it to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River?

    Apparently this is an enormous problem. In 2007, MSNBC reported this morning, there were 7,600 “bird strikes” in aircraft in the US, and since 1988 there have been more than 200 people killed as a result of bird strikes. (No records are kept, best I can tell, of how many birds have been killed in such events; I’m also trying to get confirmation of the fact that PETA refers to these events as “airplane strikes.”)

    Kidding aside, I think we can all agree that next time we fly, we want Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III to be the captain of the plane. Because how he handled an emergency situation yesterday was just extraordinary.

    Other than the fact that it hires really good pilots, I’m really beginning to hate US Airways.

    It isn’t bad enough that you can't even get a bottle of water on its flights without pulling out some cash. You also can’t fly anywhere without the flight attendants trying to sell you a US Airways credit card that is linked to its frequent flyer program.

    I know these folks have to make a buck, but give me a break.

    I loved the email I got from Bin 36 in Chicago earlier this week – it was short and to the point.

    The subject line of the email read, “Screw the Snow! We've got Wine!”

    And the body of email said, “Don't Ever Let Snow Stop You From Having a Good Time! Tonight at BIN 36 All of Our Wine Flights are $10”

    If I’d been anywhere near Chicago, I would have been there.

    Of course, I was in Orlando when I got the email, staying with friends. So I laughed at the email, got a Landshark beer from the fridge, and then went to hang out by the pool.

    It’s been a very good week for television.

    “24” is back, and in four hours already has had enough twists and turns to satisfy any fan. The excitement is palpable, the pace is breathless, and Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer remains a compelling character and a great television hero.

    “Damages” also has returned, and remains a fascinating legal thriller worthy of John Grisham or Scott Turow. Glenn Close and Rose Byrne are back as lawyers with competing agendas and dubious moral clarity, and William Hurt has joined the cast this year as the client with a secret. (Actually, I suspect he has at least a dozen secrets.) “Damages” also has a unique dramatic structure, jumping back and forth in time and keeping the audience guessing.

    I’m an enormous fan of the original “CSI,” and as much as I hate to see William Petersen leave the series, last night’s farewell episode was satisfying and offered a kind of closure for his character of Gil Grissom. Laurence Fishburne is replacing Petersen on the show, and he’s one of my favorite actors – I loved his passionate and dignified portrayal of Thurgood Marshall in a one-man Broadway show last year. Life goes on, and so will “CSI”.

    Finally, this week, we have the return of two wonderful shows – “Lost” on Wednesday and “Burn Notice” on Thursday.

    And y’know one of the best thing about all these series? They’re all available on iTunes, so I can download them to my laptop and iPod and watch them whenever I want.

    My wines of the week:

    • The 2006 Joseph Carr Merlot, from Napa Valley, which has a deep color and a smooth taste.

    • The 2006 Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon, which is big, bold and bright.

    That’s it for this week.

    Have a great weekend.


    KC's View:

    Published on: January 16, 2009

    Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal and school holiday that will, because of Tuesday’s inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States, will have even more significance than usual.

    MorningNewsBeat will be taking the holiday off, but will return on Tuesday.

    KC's View: