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    Published on: December 22, 2010

    The New York Times reports this morning that the US House of Representatives yesterday passed food safety legislation that will increase the ability of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be more aggressive in preventing the outbreak of food-borne illnesses,, as opposed to reacting to tainted food once it is already out in the marketplace.

    The bill already has been passed by the US Senate, and it is expected to be signed shortly by President Obama.

    As the Times reports, “Under the legislation, food manufacturers will be required to examine their processing systems to identify possible ways that food products can become contaminated and to develop detailed plans to keep that from happening. Companies must share those plans with the F.D.A., and provide the agency with records, including product test results, showing how effectively they carry them out.

    “The agency, which has sometimes been criticized for its failure to check up on risky food producers, will be required to conduct more frequent inspections in the United States and abroad. The law will also give the F.D.A. the power to order food recalls. Currently, it can only request a recall, even when there is evidence that tainted food has made people sick or represents a clear health hazard.”

    The vote was 215-144.

    Even after the bill becomes law, it will take some time for systemic changes to take place. According to the Times story, “While the legislation contains many changes that advocates had long pursued, many of its important provisions, including the requirement that companies put in place food safety plans, do not go into effect for as long as 18 months. The agency will use much of that time to write rules that it needs to carry out the law.

    “In addition, the increased inspection of food manufacturers will happen only gradually, with regulators given up to five years to visit high-risk facilities. After that, high-risk plants must be inspected every three years.”

    Responses to the passage included:

    “For the past several months, there has been one constant related to strengthening our food safety system:  strong bi-partisan support to improve food safety in America.  The results of multiple votes on the Food Safety Modernization Act have been overwhelming in favor of improving our nation’s food safety system and preventing problems before they occur,” said FMI President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie G. Sarasin. “Food retailers and wholesalers believe that given today’s global marketplace, it is critical to provide the FDA with the authority to recall products when necessary.  We also support the use of third-party certification programs and requiring food safety plans for every company manufacturing food. Our customers deserve to have the industry and government working together to ensure the safety of our food supply.”

    "We applaud the House for passing The Food Safety Modernization Act – this landmark legislation provides FDA with the resources and authorities the agency needs to help strengthen our nation’s food safety system by making prevention the focus of our food safety strategies,” said GMA President and CEO Pamela G. Bailey.

    Jean Halloran, the director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, said, "This is a big victory for consumers that finally brings food-safety laws into the 21st century. This win is a powerful testament to the people across the country who came to Washington to tell their lawmakers how contaminated food had killed their loved ones or left them horribly sick. This win is for them and all Americans.  For a long time, we've been saying that we needed to do a better job of making sure our food is safe, and under this bill, we will."

    But United Fresh Produce Association Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther sounded a cautionary note:

    “The good in this bill, however, is still accompanied by the bad, and the Food Safety Modernization Act still contains an amendment from Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina that threatens the health and well-being of a nation of consumers by exempting some producers and processors based only on the size of their business, their geographic location, or to whom they sell their products. This inclusion of exemptions based on non-scientific qualifications will limit the ability of the Food and Drug Administration to assure consumers that all foods they purchase, whether at grocery stores, restaurants, farm markets, or elsewhere, have met the same food safety standards. We remain fearful that this profound error will come back to haunt Congress, public health agencies, and even those who thought they would benefit from food safety exemptions, but more importantly, we are fearful of what may slip through the food safety loopholes created by the Tester/Hagan Amendment and adversely affect consumers in the United States.”
    KC's View:
    Is the legislation flawed? Sure. I’ll buy that. (Isn’t all legislation flawed? Compromise creates flaws.)

    But clearly the food safety system as it has existed is too imperfect for it not to be changed, and we all have to hope that these changes will create a system more responsive and more pro-active.

    Published on: December 22, 2010

    by Kevin Coupe

    CNBC reports that Best Buy “is expanding its health and wellness offerings to 600 stores nationwide,” from an apparently successful test in 40 stores.

    “Product offerings include products related to running, walking, swimming and yoga such as heart-rate monitoring watches, pedometers, headphones, yoga mats, scales, blood pressure monitors and other products.”

    The story makes clear that Best Buy is pursuing this for financial, as well as strategic reasons - its sales are not what they used to be, in part because of competition from discounters both in the virtual and brick-and-mortar arenas. And so, the retailer is looking for new - and yet connected - areas in which it can make an impact.

    That’s an interesting lesson ... and one that food retailers, especially those looking to differentiate themselves through healthy foods (though not defined as “health food stores”) ought to take to heart.

    How about pedometers in the produce department? Or blood pressure monitors hanging over the frozen food?

    The broader lesson, I think, is the necessity to always think about the mission in different ways ... to consider all the ways< in which a retailer can be relevant to the shopper and still adhere to the core mission.

    It is critical to think that way, because there’s always a retailer out there looking to steal share and sales. If Best Buy is selling health and wellness equipment, there’s nothing to say that it also can’t make a limited but targeted foray into the food business, offering certain kinds of foods that connect to the equipment it is selling.

    And if you don’t believe it, remember that there once was a time when Walmart didn’t sell food.

    And that’s our Wednesday Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2010

    Internet Retailer has a story saying that “e-commerce sales have increased 13.5% this holiday season compared with last year’s, according to the SpendingPulse report from MasterCard Advisors, the consulting arm of MasterCard.

    According to the story, “The report also said that total apparel sales have increased 9.8% between Oct. 31 and Dec. 11 when compared with last year. Total electronics sales have increased 0.4% and jewelry sales 2.6%.”
    KC's View:
    Just another marker in how the world is changing.

    Published on: December 22, 2010

    Advertising Age reports on a survey of children and parents by the market research firm Smarty Pants, in which they rated the brands that both “please” and “disappoint” them.

    The interesting thing is that four of the top-rated family brands have a traditional aura about them - Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, Crayola Crayons, and the Disney Channel. Only one of the favorite brands might be considered modern, or technological - the Wii - and that seems to be because it encourages family participation.

    The “disappointing” brands include the Grand Theft Auto video game (largely because of its violence), Starbucks (because it is perceived as being too expensive in a recessionary economy), and Burger King (cited for having “crude” commercials and food that is anything but nutritious).
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2010

    Bloomberg reports that “FreshDirect Inc., the New York-based online grocer, plans to raise as much as $200 million to expand in Washington and Baltimore, according to two people with knowledge of the situation ... The grocer, led by Chief Executive Officer Rick Braddock, currently operates in the five boroughs of New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. In July, Braddock told Bloomberg News the grocer might pursue an initial public offering to help fund its expansion.”

    The company said that it is seeing 20 percent sales growth and plans to expand beyond the New York metro area, but will not offer specifics about its growth plans.
    KC's View:
    I hope that Fresh Direct is on sound financial footing and that it plans to expand...because I think it grows the overall pie and is good for the industry. There have been some vague rumblings to the contrary lately, and so this news can be seen as positive.

    This also means that retailers competing in these markets that are not engaged with e-commerce need to move quickly ... or risk becoming irrelevant to the next generation of consumers.

    Published on: December 22, 2010

    Bloomberg reports that analysts are predicting that is likely to sell more than eight million Kindle e-book readers this holiday season - far more than the 2.4 million sold in 2009 and five million that analysts expected to be sold in all of 2010.

    According to the story, “Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is using the Kindle, unveiled in 2007, to expand into hardware and fuel digital book demand. The projections show Amazon is adding share in the e- reader market, where it vies with Sony Corp. and Barnes & Noble Inc., faster than predicted by analysts at Citigroup Inc. and at least five other securities or research firms.”

    Amazon has grown its Kindle sales in part of expanding the number of versions that it sells - there are three different Kindles, ranging in price from $139 to $379, depending on memory and capabilities - thereby expanding the attractiveness of the product to a broader demographic spectrum.

    It should be noted that all these sales figures are based on speculation and anonymous sources, since Amazon does not disclose specific sales figures for the Kindle.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2010

    The NuValTM Nutritional Scoring System - which ranks the nutritional value of food using a scale of 1-100 - announced a partnership with the Sisters of Mercy Health System (Mercy), an organization with 28 hospitals and more than 200 outpatient facilities across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, expanding beyond its presence in a number of supermarket chains, including Hy-Vee.

    According to the announcement, “NuVal scores are now posted at food service areas, displayed in their trademark double-hexagon design wherever Mercy co-workers purchase food. Mercy will promote NuVal through signs, brochures and a promotional game that illustrates how NuVal scores work. All participants can turn in their game cards for a healthy snack.”
    KC's View:
    Game cards? Wow, things have changed.

    Back in the old days, when I was being taught by nuns, if they wanted me to do something they’d generally use a stern word, a hard stare and a harder ruler. (I still have the scars.)

    Maybe that’s the difference between the Sisters of Mercy and the Dominicans.

    Seriously, though...these kinds of agreements demonstrate a positive expansion of nutrition awareness.

    Published on: December 22, 2010

    Wakefern Food Corp. announced changes to its organizational structure effective January 1, 2011.

    • Jeff Reagan, senior vice president, Corporate Merchandising and Non-Perishables, has been promoted to senior vice president of Marketing, and will oversee several of the company’s service divisions, including Marketing, Quality Assurance, Logistics and Warehousing.
    • Chris Lane, current vice president of Wakefern’s Grocery Marketing division, has been promoted to senior vice president of Non-Perishables. In addition to Grocery Marketing, he will also have responsibility for the HABA, Pharmacy and Non-Foods divisions.
    • Bill Mayo, vice president of Wakefern’s Dairy-Deli/Frozen division, has been promoted to senior vice president of Perishables. In addition to Dairy-Deli/Frozen, he will oversee the Meat, Seafood, Produce and Floral divisions.

    • Additionally, Steve Henig, current director of Corporate Merchandising will be promoted to vice president, maintaining his current responsibilities.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2010

    Got several emails yesterday responding to my comments about Brett Favre’s performance Monday night, in which I wrote:

    Personally, I’ve never been a huge Brett Favre fan. Never had anything against him particularly, but just not a fan. I wasn’t happy with his brief tenure with the Jets, and lately it seemed to me that his pursuit of his consecutive game streak was more important to him than his team’s fortunes, and that he was more focused on himself than his teammates.

    But I have to say that last night, I became a Favre fan. The streak was over, the game conditions impossible, and he’s an old man (by football standards) recovering from a tough injury. And yet, to everyone’s surprise, he started the game - and he was out there flinging the ball around and looking, at least for a few minutes, like a man decades younger than he is. The game didn’t end well for him, as he went out with yet another injury, and the guessing seems to be that his storied career is over. But he looked utterly in love with the game last night ... and I’m a fan of people who love what they do.

    MNB user Gary Harris wrote:

    I’m a long time Bills fan, but watching Favre play ball over the past almost 2 decades has always been a treat. The streak is impressive, the gunslinger mentality that says ‘he’s gonna win it all’ or ‘Oh, no, why did he throw that one!!!’ and the boyish enthusiasm he always showed for the game. Two other points; the Monday Night game after his Dad passed away had most grown men in tears, no matter who they were rooting for. I have no problem with the past several years of waffling on whether to come back each season, hey, if it was an easy choice he would just make it. The only tarnish to his legacy will be this texting incident while he was with the Jets. If it’s true, it was wrong, and there are consequences when we do the wrong thing. Outside of that, on the field we’ve watched something historic happen that may never be repeated, and that should be remembered.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    In reference to your Brett Favre comments, you're right, weather your a Favre fan or not, you have to give this guy a lot of kudos! No player has been that successful for that long playing under the conditions that he has had. This guy could stay in the pocket and take hits that would make a tackling dummy cave in, and still complete a 60 yard touchdown pass and get right back up. I have been a Favre fan since he started with the Packers and one of the few that stayed with him after he left. To me Brett Favre is to football what Pete Rose was to baseball. They both gave all they had every-time they stepped on the field, and what they did they did very well! Not to mention, NO one loved their work more than these two guys!

    Of course, the problem is that I have to qualify any praise of Pete Rose with the note that he gambled on baseball and lied about it ... unforgivable, in my view. It is a shame when personal behavior tarnishes a legacy.

    MNB user Chris O’Brien wrote:

    I appreciate your comments about Brett Favre this morning. As a lifelong Packer fan now living in Minnesota, I’ve watched Favre go from one of the most revered sports figures in Wisconsin history to one of the most despised. And to be honest, I’ve lost a lot of respect for the guy over the last few years as he set out to betray the organization and the fans that supported him for so many years. On Monday night, though, I think you got a glimpse of someone that’s still willing to risk his neck for no other reason than to simply do the one thing he loves more than anything. I guess you can’t fault him for that.

    Monday night, Favre played even though there was nothing at stake. Not money, not the streak, not a playoff spot. Nothing. He played, to use the cliche, for love of the game.

    The emails continue to come in, contributing to our discussion of “50 great American movies.”

    One MNB user wrote:

    Loving the movie thread. I have yet another movie to suggest for the top 50. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In addition to being one of the funniest movies of all time, it also illustrates another example of an American experience: the get rich quick scheme. The way people will try to undercut each other and take shortcuts to try to get ahead financially. I can never get enough of this movie and the all star cast leaves you wanting more (and the movie is over 3 hours long).

    It is definitely top 50 material and never gets enough credit for being one of the great American comedies.

    MNB user Rick Marcum wrote:

    I’ve held off as long as I possibly can.  My two favorite movies are The Princess Bride and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the original with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.  The Princess Bride has something for everyone all encapsulated in a great love story, produced by Rob Reiner and released in 1987.  Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner has so many lessons in it concerning race relationships and family relationships it just cannot be left out.  Produced by Stanley Kramer and released in 1967.  Both great movies and, as it has been said many times, this discussion can go on forever.

    I’m counting on it.
    KC's View:

    Published on: December 22, 2010

    History was made last night as the women's basketball team at the University of Connecticut won its 89th straight game, defeating Florida State 93-62, setting a Division I record for consecutive victories and passing a record set by the UCLA men's basketball team from 1971 to 1974.
    KC's View: