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It should have been enough for Safeway that negotiators for its Vons unit in Southern California – along with those of Ralphs and Albertsons – were able to reach a tentative contract agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) for a four-year pact that will avoid a repetition of the roiling strike/lockout of three years ago. But that was only one of four stories that involved Safeway this week…

• The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that Michael McGinnis, Safeway's senior vice president of meat and seafood, has informed the US Congress that the company plans to stop selling meat products packaged with carbon monoxide gas that makes the products look fresher.

The practice is being abandoned not because it is unsafe; Safeway maintains that the method causes no harmful effects, as does, for that matter, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rather, McGinnis wrote, the company is making this move because questions raised by some members of Congress "may have raised concerns with customers who do not have the benefit of the background on this process and may be confused."

• Also on the food safety side of the business, Safeway has been getting a lot of mileage out of stories run by a number of newspapers about its Eating Right private label line of products, which use colored dots to help consumers pick out healthy food more easily.

A light blue circle on a package means low fat. Royal blue means light. Red means whole grain. Yellow means low cholesterol. And while the entire line is color coded to help consumers address specific dietary needs, the coding does not use a “traffic light” approach that labels some foods as bad for you.

• And finally, Safeway has been in the financial pages this week because of reports that Sears Holdings chairman Edward Lampert may be interested in making a run at acquiring Safeway.

Analysts and news reports stress that this is just a rumor. But it is a rumor that is getting a lot of play.
KC's View:
I’ve written in various contexts that a retailer’s worst nightmare must be waking up in the morning to find out that A&P is buying his or her company.

But to read rumors that Fast Eddie is interested in acquiring Safeway must be almost the equivalent for many of the folks there.

Safeway has done a lot in the last few years to improve its reputation as a retailer, and the CEO, Steve Burd, has certainly proven to a lot of people that he is more than just a financial guy with his head in the books. The idea that Lampert – a guy who has yet to prove that he knows anything innovative about retailing – could end up owning and/or running Safeway is, to say the least, perplexing.

I hope it is just a rumor.