December 20, 2002   #211
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
From a Public Interest Perspective

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A popular television "soap opera" in the 1970's was that which chronicled the comical fortunes and misfortunes of a young married couple living in Fernwood, Ohio.

One evening as we joined Mary, her husband Tom and sister Kathy, Mary was preparing a pineapple pie for the family dinner. As she poured the somewhat grotesque-looking contents of a can of pineapple filling into a pie pan her sister Kathy, who was watching the process, wondered aloud where the pineapple was?

Puzzled, they both proceeded to read the contents of the can as it appeared on the label. Amidst the various acids and flavorings and sugar no mention was made of pineapple, except, of course, in the advertising on the label. Mary paused thoughtfully, and looking at her sister, remarked:

"I don't see any pineapple listed here," to which Kathy replied, "they don't make food out of food anymore" provoking Mary to ponder, "what do they do with food, if they don't make food out of it?"

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, that's a good question, that's a good question!

Eating food, next to life its self, is our greatest common denominator yet most Americans have come to care little about it as long as it is available, convenient and cheap, much less do they care about how it affects their lives and health, and even less about how it gets from the ground to their tables.

Despite such indifference , however, eating has become not only a moral, but a political act and what we eat, how we eat and where we eat speaks volumes about our sense of justice, our concern for our fellow human beings, our politics and peoples' desire to live in free and democratic societies.

If we are to believe what doctors, nutritionists and health experts tells us that over 50% of our health problems today can be traced to our diet then the corporate state has us between a rock and a hard place. Consistently, over the last two decades, the two sectors of our industrial economy that have shown the most profitability --- based on the percentage of return on stockholders' equity --- has been the health services industry and the food, tobacco and beverage processing industry.

So as we prepare to celebrate another holiday season, with not only the partaking of food and drink, but the happiness of our children being such an integral part of that celebration, we would be well to pause for a moment, if for no other reason than their healthy future and our own self-interest, and carefully consider what is this thing that we call food today. To that end this edition of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER is dedicated.

And while our readers hopefully pause to consider such issues this editor\publisher would like to extend his sincere wishes to them for a most joyful holiday season and express the hope that the coming year will be filled with peace and prosperity for all, no matter how remote those concepts seem to appear to be at this time.

And while we take the time to celebrate a holiday of birth and renewal while also saying farewell to 2002 and properly greeting a New Year we should note that the next issues of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER will appear on or about  December 27, 2002 and January 3, 2003.


PRNEWSWIRE: The nonprofit health and research group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a lawsuit [Wednesday] charging Tyson Foods with misleading consumers by claiming its chicken products are "all natural" and heart-healthy. Tyson Foods, based in Arkansas, is the largest producer of poultry products in the United States. The case was filed in San Francisco, California.

"It's time for Tyson to stop pretending that chicken is a health food," says PCRM president and nutrition researcher Neal D. Barnard, M.D. "Americans are eating a million chickens a day, but the truth is that chicken has nearly the same high concentrations of cholesterol and saturated fat as beef. In fact, chicken consumption is a major contributor to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases."

The latest attack on "Big Food" comes just days after Consumer Reports announced that nearly half of all chicken it recently tested was contaminated with campylobacter, a potentially deadly bacterium, 90% of which was antibiotic-resistant. Many government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, recognize that the widespread use of
antibiotics in factory farming has contributed to the developing problem of antibiotic resistance.

PCRM is charging Tyson with using deceptive advertising practices in two of the company's campaigns. One set of ads claims that Tyson chicken products are "all natural," despite the vast quantities of antibiotics used and the high percentage of products likely to be contaminated with foodborne pathogens resistant to antibiotic treatment.

The other campaign advises the consumer to "serve chicken as often as you like" as a way to protect one's health, in spite of scientific evidence that poultry consumption is not
heart-healthy. Even the conservative American Heart Association --- from which Tyson has purchased an endorsement for some of its products --- does not recommend that chicken be consumed without limit.

"We want Tyson, as well as other beef and chicken producers, to stop deceiving consumers concerned about their health," explains PCRM staff attorney Jay Ukryn. "Given the serious problems of obesity and heart disease in this country, it's time `Big Food' stopped telling Big Lies about its

To counter Tyson's misinformation, PCRM is launching a provocative counter-ad campaign today in USA Today. An ad titled "Natural Born Killers?" with a photograph of a gang of small chickens and text detailing Tyson's false claims is viewable at .

Unlike the recently filed fast-food lawsuits, PCRM's complaint does not ask for monetary damages.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition. PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.


ELLEN GOODMAN, WASHINGTONM POST: I don't believe there's any magical mathematical equation between the speed of the food and the circumference of the waistline. After all, you can gain weight eating slow food as well as fast food. You can bulk up with haute cuisine as well as Big Macs. And you can, alas, trust me on this.

So I was inclined to scoff at the Conspiracy Theory of Obesity. This is the idea that McDonald's dunnit. That Burger King and Wendy's and their speed-eating cohorts are responsible for the Incredible Expanding American.

Right before Thanksgiving, some lawyers went to court in pursuit of this theory. They filed a class action against McDonald's on behalf of New York children with health problems. These plaintiffs ate at Ronald McDonald's more than at Mom's. One 13-year-old weighed 278 pounds, while a 15-year-old weighed in at 400.

I would have called the case frivolous, except my dictionary defines frivolous lawsuits as "of little or no weight." Nevertheless, the story was enough to make me want to cross lawyers off my dinner party list. Who wants to be sued for serving cheesecake?

Now I'm not so sure. I think the lawyers have made their point, if not their case.

Consider the toy in my hand. It comes with the Happy Meal at my neighborhood McDonald's. The yellow rattle has a safety warning on the plastic wrapper. But the nutritional information for this beginner meal -- 20 fat grams and 36 sugar grams -- is nowhere to be seen. It is stashed under the counter and printed in agate that's off the eye chart.

Then there is the Mighty Kids meal, sold with a collection of Disney "Treasure Planet" toys. This newer, bigger, presumably "happier" meal for little kids totals around 1,160 calories. The Burger King version, dubbed the "Big Kids Meal," is marketed with a question for the 4-and-over eater: "Do you want to be a Big Kid?" It cheerfully supplies answers: "You Should." Indeed eat this often enough and you will.

A few facts? On any given day, one-quarter of Americans eat at a fast-food restaurant. In any given month, 90% of American children between the ages of three and nine eat at a McDonald's.

They're not forcing hamburgers down open gullets. But if people have their share of personal responsibility for what they eat, is it really frivolous to expect some responsibility on the part of corporations for what and how they market? If parents are supposed to protect their little kids' health, is it really okay for Big Food to market and advertise in and around and over the heads of parents?

In a motion to dismiss the case, the lawyers for McDonald's wrote, "Every responsible person understands what is in products such as hamburgers and fries." They sound more than vaguely like all those tobacco moguls who righteously announced that "everyone knows" smoking is dangerous while they sent Joe Camel out on a recruiting mission.

Of course, food and tobacco are not the same, though some of the same lawyers who fought big tobacco have turned their sights to a big fat target. As Dick Daynard, head of Northeastern University's Tobacco Products Liability Project, says, "Nobody needs to smoke cigarettes unless they're hooked, but everyone needs food. And there's no such thing as secondhand eating."

But a deep, dark secret of the fast-food industry is that it makes most of its money from the people targeted as, ahem, "heavy users." Like the tobacco companies, says Daynard, "food companies have very sophisticated motivational people on their payroll to figure out how to get kids to use their product."

That's fine if there aren't any health problems associated with the product. But if fast food is good for you, how come Mickey D's took out an ad in France telling parents that kids shouldn't eat les hamburgers more than once a week?

I don't like to talk about the obesity epidemic; fat isn't exactly contagious. But today 61% of adults and 14% of adolescents from 12 to 19 are overweight, an increase of 300% over three decades.

That's not just a Big Mac mistake. Blame it on a sedentary lifestyle. Blame it on portion (out of) control, from candy bars on steroids to the bagels that ate New York. Blame it on schools selling soda pop in the hallway. If we are what we do and what we eat, we're potatoes: couched and fried.

I don't think the best lawyers in town can prove that the fast-food industry fattened its customers. But they may prove it fooled its customers. Especially the young ones.

Mark my words and label your lunch. This is just the beginning of a big, fat food fight.


Ellen Goodman's skepticism about lawsuits blaming fast-food restaurants for America's weight problem is justified. But I take issue with Ms. Goodman when she suggests that marketing is the chief culprit in causing childhood obesity.

Research shows that our children's level of activity --- in school and out --- has dropped dramatically while calorie consumption has remained the same. Blaming any single food, consumer behavior or marketing tactic for obesity won't wash.

We need to provide sound nutrition and fitness information to parents, students and teachers; to encourage (and pay for) more physical education and recreational opportunities; and to fund research to determine ways to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

One-shot solutions are like fad diets: a waste of time, money and resources.

President and CEO
Grocery Manufacturers of America
Washington. D.C.


DAVID ZINCZENKO, NEW YORK TIMES: If ever there were a newspaper headline custom-made for Jay Leno's monologue, this was it. Kids taking on McDonald's this week, suing the company for making them fat. Isn't that like middle-aged men suing Porsche for making them get speeding tickets? Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

I tend to sympathize with these portly fast-food patrons, though. Maybe  that's because I used to be one of them.

I grew up as a typical mid-1980's latchkey kid. My parents were split up, my dad off trying to rebuild his life, my mom working long hours to make  the monthly bills. Lunch and dinner, for me, was a daily choice between  McDonald's, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken or Pizza Hut. Then as now, these were the only available options for an American kid to get an  affordable meal. By age 15, I had packed 212 pounds of torpid teenage tallow on my once lanky 5-foot-10 frame.

Then I got lucky. I went to college, joined the Navy Reserves and got involved with a health magazine. I learned how to manage my diet. But most of the teenagers who live, as I once did, on a fast-food diet won't turn their lives around: They've crossed under the golden arches to a likely fate of lifetime obesity. And the problem isn't just theirs --- it's all of ours.

Before 1994, diabetes in children was generally caused by a genetic disorder --- only about five percent of childhood cases were obesity-related, or Type 2, diabetes. Today, according to the National Institutes of Health, Type 2 diabetes accounts for at least 30% of all new childhood cases of diabetes in this country.

Not surprisingly, money spent to treat diabetes has skyrocketed, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that diabetes accounted for $2.6 billion in health care costs in 1969. Today's number is an unbelievable $100 billion a year.

Shouldn't we know better than to eat two meals a day in fast-food restaurants? That's one argument. But where, exactly, are consumers --- particularly teenagers --- supposed to find alternatives? Drive down any thoroughfare in America, and I guarantee you'll see one of our country's more than 13,000 McDonald's restaurants. Now, drive back up the block and try to find someplace to buy a grapefruit.

Complicating the lack of alternatives is the lack of information about what, exactly, we're consuming. There are no calorie information charts on fast-food packaging, the way there are on grocery items. Advertisements don't carry warning labels the way tobacco ads do. Prepared foods aren't covered under Food and Drug Administration labeling laws. Some fast-food purveyors will provide calorie information on request, but even that can be hard to understand.

For example, one company's Web site lists its chicken salad as containing 150 calories; the almonds and noodles that come with it (an additional 190 calories) are listed separately. Add a serving of the 280-calorie dressing, and you've got a healthy lunch alternative that comes in at 620 calories.  But that's not all. Read the small print on the back of the dressing packet and you'll realize it actually contains 2.5 servings. If you pour what you've been served, you're suddenly up around 1,040 calories, which is half of the government's recommended daily calorie intake. And that doesn't take into account that 450-calorie super-size Coke.

Make fun if you will of these kids launching lawsuits against the fast-food industry, but don't be surprised if you're the next plaintiff. As with the tobacco industry, it may be only a matter of time before state governments begin to see a direct line between the $1 billion that McDonald's and Burger King spend each year on advertising and their own swelling health care costs.

And I'd say the industry is vulnerable. Fast-food companies are marketing to children a product with proven health hazards and no warning labels. They would do well to protect themselves, and their customers, by providing the nutrition information people need to make informed choices about their products. Without such warnings, we'll see more sick, obese children and more angry, litigious parents. I say, let the deep-fried chips fall where they may.

David Zinczenko is editor in chief of Men's Health magazine.


To the Editor:

David Zinczenko ("Don't Blame the Eater," Op-Ed, November 23) sympathizes with the kids suing McDonald's for making them obese. He says when he grew up, in the 1980's, as now, fast-food restaurants "were the only available options for an American kid to get an affordable meal."

In fact, it is both healthier and cheaper to eat a sandwich or a salad made at home from ingredients bought at a supermarket than to go to a fast-food restaurant.

That many parents do not know this or do not have the time or inclination to provide healthy meals for their children is a social problem that cannot be solved by suing fast-food companies.

Parents, not fast-food companies, are responsible for what their children  eat.

Philadelphia, November 23, 2002

To the Editor:

Re "Don't Blame the Eater," by David Zinczenko (Op-Ed, November 23):

As a pediatric resident, I recently taught a group of kindergartners about the heart. I asked, "Is McDonald's healthy for your heart?" To my surprise, the response was a chorus of noes!

The problem is not a lack of knowledge but rather a lack of resources for poor urban children. The fast-food industry aims its products at families that do not have the time and money to achieve a healthier lifestyle. A result is increased obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Why should taxpayers shoulder the burden? It is not unreasonable to ask the golden arches to repay a fraction of the health care costs of its billions served.

Boston, November 23, 2002

To the Editor:

Unlike David Zinczenko, I was not a child of the 80's, my youth having been spent in a more remote era, so my response to his November 23 Op-Ed article, "Don't Blame the Eater," is probably hopelessly out of date. But I can't help but offer some alternative fast foods that he did not mention.

Back in my youth, before McDonald's et al., I brought sandwiches and fruit to school. Our children, of more recent vintage, did likewise, sometimes substituting crackers and cheese for the sandwiches.

These alternatives may still exist, for all I know. If they do, they are certainly less expensive and healthier than anything in the fast-food chains.

West Caldwell, New Jersey, November 23, 2002

To the Editor:

Re "Don't Blame the Eater," by David Zinczenko (Op-Ed, November 23):

There's plenty of fault to go around in explaining the problem of obese children.

Our society is one in which children are carpooled, no one walks and very few bicycle. We are overscheduled, so it is difficult to shop for and prepare healthy meals and snacks to bring along.

Further, we are gluttons. One can find healthy foods in fast-food places; it is not required that one consume double orders of fries and milkshakes at every outing.

What's needed is a little discipline, a little thought and a little physical exercise.

Lido Beach, New York , November 24, 2002

To the Editor:

Re "Don't Blame the Eater," by David Zinczenko (Op-Ed, November 23):

If restaurant menus listed calories as well as prices, diners could order more intelligently.

Yorktown Heights, New York
November 24, 2002


VICKI KEMPER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Food and Drug Administration, saying it wants to help consumers make more healthful choices, announced yesterday that it will allow food makers to list health claims on product labels before they have been scientifically proved.

New FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan also said his agency will crack down on false health claims made by manufacturers of dietary supplements.

"We are committed to improving opportunities for consumers to get scientifically accurate information about the health consequences of the foods they consume, and to enhancing our enforcement efforts against those who would make false or misleading claims for their products," McClellan said.

The FDA has required "significant scientific agreement" before it has allowed industry to make health and nutrition claims for food. By changing the standard to "the weight of scientific evidence," the government will make it easier for industry to give consumers more information, and that will promote improved public health, administration officials said.

But a consumer health-advocacy group questioned the FDA's authority to change the standard for food health claims and said the action could result in more confusion for consumers.

"Today's action lowers the standards for health claims for foods to the standards for dietary supplements that has led to a marketplace free-for-all of false and misleading claims," said Bruce Silverglade, legal director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The National Food Processors Association, the voice of the $500 billion food-processing industry, praised what it called "a very positive move by the FDA," saying it would allow food makers to put more information about health benefits on labels. "This is something that is in the best interest of everyone --- particularly consumers," said Rhona Applebaum, executive vice president of the group.

But some consumer advocates questioned whether the FDA would be able to handle the added work of evaluating the truthfulness of more health claims on food labels --- particularly as it also promised to crack down on fraudulent claims by makers of dietary supplements.

Federal law exempts the $17 billion-a-year dietary-supplement industry from most federal regulation. Unlike prescription drugs, for example, supplements do not have to pass FDA tests for safety and effectiveness before being put on the market.

The FDA's authority over the supplements is largely limited to ensuring the truthfulness of their labels and advertising claims. In rare cases, when it has proved that a supplement has caused injuries or deaths, the FDA can force a product off the market.


Children who participate in the National School Lunch Program should not be fed irradiated food because there are no long-term health studies on children who eat such food, two public interest organizations said today. Public Citizen and the Center for Food Safety submitted 11 pages of comments in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) call last month for comments on whether irradiated food should be permitted to feed the 25.4 million children who sign up for the federal program each year.

The USDA's call for comment comes in response to a little-known rider tucked into the massive 2002 Farm bill. That provision requires the USDA to reconsider its long-existing prohibition on irradiated foods in federal food subsidy programs. The initial call for comments occurred at the onset of the holiday season, prior to Thanksgiving, in a hurried
and unpublicized process. Public Citizen and the Center for Food Safety object to the brevity and timing of the feedback period during the busy month of December, when most people's attention is focused elsewhere.

"A decision to feed school children irradiated food would mean this agency is willing to put our children's health at risk to help cover up the meat industry's sanitary failures," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "The USDA must ensure the safety of those it feeds, not bow to the interests
of the meat and irradiation industries."

Recent market research conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and the USDA shows that the public overwhelmingly wants irradiated food to be clearly labeled as "irradiated" and that consumers view attempts to eliminate that labeling as "sneaky" and "deceptive." However, if irradiated food is permitted in school lunches, it will not be labeled in the way that irradiated retail food must be, making it impossible for parents to know what school cafeterias are feeding their children.

Research indicates that irradiation depletes several vitamins and nutrients. Additionally, irradiated foods contain chemical byproducts of the process. One class of these byproducts, called alkylcyclobutanones, is unique to irradiated food. These byproducts recently were found by a respected European research consortium to promote tumor formation in rats and to cause genetic and cellular damage in human and rat cells.
As a result, recent attempts to liberalize the use of irradiation in Europe have suffered defeats in the European Union and before the Codex Alimentarius, the global food standard-setting body.

"If USDA forces irradiated food into the federal school meal program, it will be running a massive --- and wholly unethical --- toxicity experiment on the most vulnerable children in America," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.  "We've looked long and hard at the science, and the bottom line is that we urge parents and administrators to demand that USDA stop this threat now."

 In the comments, the groups also said that:

* The November 22 press release issued by the USDA press office did not state a deadline for submitting comments. It was only after the groups contacted the USDA press office that they learned the comment period would expire on December 22, a Sunday in the busy holiday season. In sum, the 30-day comment period was inadequately declared and is too short given the massive public impacts.

* An expert has outlined a scientific case against feeding irradiated foods to vulnerable school children. Details were in an affidavit the groups submitted from William W. Au, Ph.D., an internationally recognized toxicology expert. Au is a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

* Dropping the long-existing ban on irradiation in school lunch contracts will turn these programs into the largest distributor of irradiated food. Yet the only controlled study of children, who were fed irradiated wheat, found that the diet had mutagenic effects. No studies on children have been done since that 1975 research, primarily for ethical reasons because of the dangers. The consumer groups say it is shocking that USDA would consider forcing the technology on children based on the science.

* Irradiation is no cure-all for food safety problems. There is much that should be done to improve the food served to the nation's schoolchildren, most importantly strengthening federal inspection and enforcement to ensure that processed food is safe and wholesome. In particular, poor sanitation and improper slaughtering and processing practices in meat and poultry plants must be fixed, otherwise all consumers will remain at risk.

The groups concluded that the USDA has the discretion to decide how to implement the Farm bill provision and that the right choice is to continue the existing ban on irradiated foods in all of the various USDA nutrition programs.

Hundreds of comments have since been submitted in opposition to irradiated food, mostly from concerned parents.

The groups' comments can be viewed at:


"The farther we ship food, the more vulnerable our food system becomes," says Worldwatch Research Associate Brian Halweil, author of Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market. "Many major cities in the U.S. have a limited supply of food on hand. That makes those cities highly vulnerable to anything that suddenly restricts transportation, such as oil shortages or acts of terrorism."

This vulnerability is not limited to the United States. The tonnage of food shipped between countries has grown fourfold over the last four decades. In the United Kingdom, for example, food travels 50% farther than it did two decades ago.

This reliance on long-distance food damages rural economies, as farmers and small food businesses become the most marginal link in the sprawling food chain. This trend also creates numerous opportunities along the way for contamination, while contributing to global warming, because of the huge quantities of fuel used for transportation.

"We are spending far more energy to get food to the table than the energy we get from eating the food. A head of lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley of California and shipped nearly 3,000 miles to Washington, D.C., requires about 36 times as much fossil fuel energy in transport as it provides in food energy when it arrives," Halweil says.

Surveys have shown that a typical meal --- some meat, grain, fruits, and vegetables --- using local ingredients entails four to 17 times less petroleum consumption in transport than the same meal bought from the conventional food chain.

While most economists believe that long-distance food trade is efficient because communities and nations can buy their food from the lowest-cost provider, studies from North America, Asia, and Africa show farm communities reap little benefit, and often suffer as a result of freer trade in agricultural goods.

"The economic benefits of food trade are a myth. The big winners are agribusiness monopolies that ship, trade, and process food. Agricultural policies, including the new Farm Bill, tend to favor factory farms, giant supermarkets, and long-distance trade, and cheap, subsidized fossil fuels encourage long-distance shipping. The big losers are the world's poor."

Farmers producing for export often go hungry as they sacrifice the use of their land to feed foreign mouths, Halweil says. Poor urbanites in both the First and Third Worlds find themselves living in neighborhoods without supermarkets, green grocers, and healthy food choices.

Halweil points to a vigorous, emerging local food movement that is challenging both the wisdom and practice of long-distance food shipping. "Massive meat recalls, the advent of genetically engineered food, and other food safety crises have built interest in local food," he says. "Rebuilding local food economies is the first genuine profit-making opportunity in farm country in years."

In the United States, the number of registered farmers' markets has jumped from 300 in the mid-1970s and 1,755 in 1994 to more than 3,100 today. Approximately three million people visit these markets each week and spend over $1 billion each year. Innovative restaurants, school cafeterias, caterers, hospitals, and even supermarkets are beginning to offer fresh, seasonal foods from local farmers and food businesses.

"Locally grown food served fresh and in season has a definite taste advantage," says Halweil, "It's harvested at the peak of ripeness and doesn't have to be fumigated, refrigerated, or packaged for long-distance hauling and long shelf-life." In the United States, more than half of all tomatoes are harvested and shipped green, and then artificially ripened upon arrival at their final destination.

"Of course, a certain amount of food trade is natural and beneficial. But money spent on locally produced foods stays in the community longer, creating jobs, supporting farmers, and preserving local cuisines and crop varieties against the steamroller of culinary imperialism. And developing nations that emphasize greater food self-reliance can retain precious foreign exchange and avoid the instability of international markets."


REUTERS: Scientists say they have made progress in understanding why eating less leads to longer life.

Studies of yeast, rodents and other organisms found that drastically  cutting calories extended life, and researchers are trying to find out how that happens. They hope to develop drugs to mimic the effect in humans.

In a report in the current issue of the journal Science, the researchers  said studies of fruit flies showed that an enzyme called Rpd3 histone deacetylase is probably vital. "If you decrease the level of enzyme without eating less, you still get life span extension," said Stewart Frankel, a scientist at Yale and the senior author of the study.

In the study, flies with genetic mutations that brought lower levels of the enzyme lived significantly longer than normal. With a low-calorie diet as well, they lived 41% longer.

Dr. Frankel cautioned that a drug to safely produce the effect in people may be years away. One drug, phenylbutyrate, is thought to lower the Rpd3 enzyme, Dr. Frankel said. An earlier study showed that it extended the lives of fruit flies.

Blanka Rogina and Stephen Helfand of the University of Connecticut Health Center helped in the study.


NANCI HELLMICH & BOB RIHA JR., USA TODAY: Phil Lempert, who has bar codes on the brain, tracks grocery store trends in his latest book.

Some facts about supermarket shoppers:

* Each week the average shopper makes 2.2 trips to the supermarket and spends $91 in total.
* The amount spent for a week ranges from $55 for one person to $137 for households of five or more people.
* About a third of all purchases are impulse purchases.
* The number of food stores that shoppers visited per week climbed from 1.4 stores in 1995 to 2.7 stores in 2000.
Source: Being the Shopper: Understanding the Buyer's Choices by Phil Lempert

Supermarkets should consider offering daily taste testings of different fruits and vegetables in their produce departments.

They should sell prepared takeout foods near the front of the store with a separate, fast-service checkout line.

And stores that offer specialty brewed coffees should try to make sure the prices are reasonable.

So says supermarket trendmeister Phil Lempert, who does research on grocery stores and shoppers' buying habits, which he shares in his new book, Being the Shopper: Understanding the Buyer's Choice. He's the founder of

According to his calculations, Lempert says the average supermarket shopping trip lasts about 22 minutes, and people go to the grocery store about 2.2 times a week. With a typical supermarket stocking 34,000 or more items, it's no wonder that many shoppers are overwhelmed, so they end up buying the same things every week.

Lempert advises people to give grocery store managers ideas for improving the store. Here are some of his suggestions for what supermarkets could do to better serve nutrition-conscious, time-pressed shoppers: Tempt people to eat their veggies. The average grocery store has 300 to 400 fruits and vegetables in its produce department, but people tend to buy the same things every week and never try most of those foods, Lempert says. He suggests that stores offer taste-testing samples of different produce along with recipes for preparing those foods.

Rethink prepared-foods sections. Some stores are making good-tasting, ready-to-eat foods like salads, soups, dips, appetizers, chicken dishes and other entrees, but those departments are often stuck at the back of the store near the meat department, he says.

If people don't want to spend an hour cooking dinner, then they don't want to spend a lot of time parking the car, schlepping to the back of the store, waiting in line to order the food and then waiting in another line to pay for it. Prepared foods should be positioned at the front of the store near a cash register so people can rush in, grab what they want, pay at a special line and get out of the store quickly, he says.

He also believes these foods should have a full disclosure of nutrition information. Continue selling java. Many stores are offering brewed coffee as a convenience for shoppers, but the cost of these coffees is too high, Lempert says.

He says growers make about 50 cents a pound on coffee; name brands like Folgers and Maxwell House sell for $7 to $9 a pound. A cup of coffee at 7-Eleven costs the equivalent of $49 a pound. The price goes up to $225 a pound when you buy a latte or other specialty coffee at Starbucks, he says.

Starbucks and other chains are operating at some stores, but Lempert says supermarkets could sell their own brands of coffee at more reasonable prices. Continue to stock healthy alternatives. Many stores are offering more organic foods, and the prices of those foods have come down, Lempert says. There are also more tasty vegetarian options available, including special sections set aside for these products at some stores.

Hormone-free meats and dairy products are becoming more common, he says. "The trend will continue to grow if we vote with our pocketbooks."

Gary Rhodes, a spokesman for the Kroger Co., which has over 2,400 stores in 32 states, says there are now natural-food departments in more than 1,000 Kroger stores. "That's one of the fastest-growing segments of our business. Prior to a few years ago, a shopper who wanted to buy primarily natural foods would have to visit different aisles of the grocery store," he says.

                                       EDITOR'S NOTE

Preparing to post this 211th edition of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER it is
gratifying to know that over 1100 people throughout the world are currently receiving it
 on a regular basis and judging from comments received feel it is a valuable source of
information. However, it is also quite troubling to realize that less than 4.5% of that
readership has ever seen fit to make any contributions toward its continued existence.

To that small cadre of contributors this editor can only express his profound gratitude
and appreciation for I realize that in some cases even a small donation was a sacrifice for

From the outset it was never the purpose of THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER to
charge a subscription fee for the original intention of this newsletter was to get it into as
many hands as possible as a vehicle for monitoring corporate agribusiness from a public
interest perspective, just as was the establishing of a web site
[] to provide facts, background, analysis and educational
information on corporate agribusiness.

Thanks to the generosity and creativity of the editor's oldest son David and his business
colleagues at ElectricArrow in Seattle, Washington that sight is being maintained on a
virtual pro bono basis.

Having said all this, may I repeat CONTRIBUTIONS FROM READERS are always and
will always be most welcomed for editors of such publications as THE AGRIBUSINESS
EXAMINER can not always live on bread and water alone. Such checks made out to
A.V. Krebs can be sent to P.O. Box 2201, Everett, Washington 98203.