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• The Washington Post reports that Safeway, having reached the point where 1,000 of its stores have been converted to the “Lifestyle” format, is saying that all of its 1,738 units will have been converted by 2010,

And, the Post notes, “Safeway has slowly gained market share in the Washington region, though it remains second in both sales and number of stores to longtime leader Giant Food. But as Giant struggles with remote management, low employee morale and sluggish sales, Safeway has invested heavily in renovating its stores in the area.”

• The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) said yesterday that it has sold all of its 11.7 million shares of Metro Inc. supermarket chain for $347 million as part of its financing to buy Pathmark Stores for about $679 million. Canada’s Metro Inc. is buying 1.5 million of the A&P shares.

Business Week reports that “the Food & Drug Administration is planning hearings on Nov. 29 that will reopen a long-dormant debate over whether stricter limits on salt in processed foods are needed. The move has snackmakers and food companies scrambling to fend off the prospect of rules and labeling requirements that could scare consumers and potentially take a bite out of the billions Americans spend on food each year.

“ Americans on average ingest 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day--about 1 ½ teaspoons' worth, well above the recommended level of 2,300 mg.”

USA Today reports on what it describes as one of the nation’s hottest food trends – macaroni and cheese.

“In an age of better-for-you eating, calorie- and carb-heavy macaroni and cheese is making a comeback. It's now sold in restaurants from fast-food and casual-dining to chi-chi establishments. Even packaged-food giants are cashing in as folks seek sensory comfort in the tastes and smells of their youth.

“Sonic Drive-In started selling it as a snack this month. Kraft has introduced an organic version. Cheesecake Factory sells it as an appetizer. And at two trendy New York eateries, it's the only entrée.”

• Whole Foods announced that it will launch a bi-monthly consumer magazine – called, predictably enough, “Whole Foods Market Magazine” – early next year. Published by Active Interest Media, the magazine will “feature the latest in health and wellness news, food and environmental issues and trends, a wine column, the latest in beauty and self-care products, and more. The magazine will also feature the best natural, organic and gourmet foods as well as healthy and delicious recipes,” according to a statement released by the company.

• The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) said yesterday that it supports granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) the authority to mandate a recall when a company refuses or delays to voluntarily recall a product that FDA and/or USDA have determined poses an imminent and substantial risk of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals. This authority should be used to enhance systems currently in place and foster clear and accurate communication.

According to the statement, the FMI Board of Directors approved the position at a meeting two weeks ago.

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