retail news in context, analysis with attitude

...with occasional, brief, italicized, and sometimes gratuitous commentary....

• The New York Times this morning reports that “the United States economy gained momentum in January, adding 243,000 jobs, the second straight month of better-than-expected gains. The unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent, giving a cause for optimism as the economy shapes up as the central issue in the presidential election. The Labor Department’s monthly snapshot of the job market uses a different survey, of households rather than employers, to calculate the unemployment rate.

“As measured by both the unemployment rate and the number of jobless — which fell to 12.7 million — it was the strongest signal yet that an economic recovery was spreading to the jobs market. The last time the figures were as good was February 2009, President Obama’s first full month in office.”

Reuters reports that “Yum Brand Inc's Taco Bell chain has been linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened 68 people in 10 states late last year. Taco Bell said in a statement on Wednesday that investigators found that some of the people who became ill ate at Taco Bell, while others did not.”

The story goes on to say that “the cluster of illness from salmonella enteritidis infections is believed to have begun in mid-October and ended by the time CDC issued its final report. Illnesses were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio and Tennessee.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 31 percent of affected people were hospitalized. Nobody has died, the reports say.

A good rule of thumb is to never, ever eat at Taco Bell. Never.

Reuters reports that two private equity groups - one of which used to be run by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney - are competing to buy British frozen food retailer Iceland Foods. Bain Capital, which Romney used to run, and BC Capital reportedly have submitted “aggressive” bids, though there is no word whether they approach the $2.4 billion that some believe the business should go for.

William Morrison Supermarkets was involved in the bidding process, but may or may not still be interested in acquiring Iceland; the company’s current CEO,Malcolm Walker, is said to have 42 days to match the outside offer.

• The Associated Press reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has discovered “low levels of an illegal fungicide for oranges in samples taken from Florida juice manufacturers.” The levels are so low as to be no threat to people who consume it; the “juice tested was mixed with juice or concentrate from Brazil, where the fungicide carbendazim is used.”
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