business news in context, analysis with attitude

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

• The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in response to pressure from consumer groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Consumers Union, is proposing "a limit on the amount of arsenic allowed in apple juice, and said it will consider enforcement actions against juice makers that exceed the standard." The proposal could go into effect after a 60-day comment period.

According to the story, "The FDA's new threshold sets the same the same 10-parts-per-billion standard that the Environmental Protection Agency imposes for drinking water, and aims to limit the number of cancers such as those of the lung, bladder, kidney and skin that may occur in a lifetime." The Juice Products Association, the trade association representing the industry, has promised to "carefully evaluate" the proposal.

It is on stories like this one that I get totally lost, because common sense suggests that it simply does not seem logical that more arsenic would be allowed in apple juice than in drinking water. And I wonder who made up these regulations to begin with. But maybe that's just me...

• The Buffalo News reports that Wegmans, which had announced that employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week would not be eligible for employer-funded health insurance because of changes in health care legislation, is saying that it will allow current part-timers to work more hours so they will become eligible for health benefits. The change sin Wegmans program will not take place until 2015.

• The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that while the demand for organic commodities continues to grow, the US Farm Belt has not kept up, which means that "organic food producers are turning to China and India for organic soybeans, as total U.S. imports of those kinds of beans doubled last year and could surpass $100 million in value this year."

Some manufacturers are making a point of rejecting foreign organic imports, and there remains real concerns about imports from China, which has had a history of food safety and labeling problems.

• The Daily Beast reports on a new study from Purdue University saying that "the artificial sweeteners in diet soda can cause weight gain, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease, adding to mounting research about the potential health risks of diet soft drinks.

"And that’s not all—the study also found that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda can interfere with your body’s normal response to sugar, deregulating normal blood sugar levels even more than regular soda. That’s because the fake sugar essentially tricks your body into thinking you’re taking in the calories associated with the sweet taste. But that means the body doesn’t know how to process real sugar—and fails to release the hormone that controls blood sugar and blood pressure."

The American beverage Association (ABA) disagrees, and released a statement saying, in part, that "low-calorie sweeteners are some of the most studied and reviewed ingredients in the food supply today ... They are safe and an effective tool in weight loss and weight management, according to decades of scientific research and regulatory agencies around the globe.”

• The Associated Press reports that handbag designer Michael Kors is suing Costco, claiming that the retailer "illegally used pictures of its luxury bags in its ads in order to lure in customers without being authorized to sell the designer's wares." The suit says that Costco used pictures of the bags - which normally retail for hundreds of dollars - and an advertised price point of $99 to generate customer traffic, though it did not actually have any bags to sell.

• In Massachusetts, the Lowell Sun reports that Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas could be removed from his job by the company's board of directors as a longtime internal family battle gets even more pitched.

According to the story, dissident family members say they are concerned about spending by the company management, though the response from the company's leadership is that Market Basket has managed to grow sales and profits while maintaining high profit margins, and that any change at the top "would sacrifice customers and employees for higher profit margins and prices."
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