NEWS WATCH: ATKINS FILES FOR CHAPTER 11 BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION...COURT APPROVES WINN-DIXIE-VENDOR AGREEMENT...ADDITIONAL BSE TESTS NEGATIVE FOR SUSPECT COW...

ATKINS FILES FOR CHAPTER 11 BANKRUPTCY PROTECTIONlast week said it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company, which was at the center of a wildly popular diet craze in recent years that called for reducing carbohydrate consumption, said it has reached an agreement "with the overwhelming majority of its lenders" on a prearranged plan to restructure its debt. It said it expects to

ATKINS FILES FOR CHAPTER 11 BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION

last week said it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company, which was at the center of a wildly popular diet craze in recent years that called for reducing carbohydrate consumption, said it has reached an agreement "with the overwhelming majority of its lenders" on a prearranged plan to restructure its debt. It said it expects to file a plan of reorganization shortly, calling for lenders to receive the equity of the company in exchange for a reduction of Atkins' outstanding debt. "In the past year we have adjusted our organization to accommodate a smaller business and have begun to position the Atkins brand more broadly for consumers who are concerned about health and wellness," said Mark S. Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer, Atkins Nutritionals. The company is privately owned.

COURT APPROVES WINN-DIXIE-VENDOR AGREEMENT

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge here approved the previously announced reclamation agreement between Winn-Dixie and its vendors that allows the retailer to receive credit from trade vendors in return for settling claims for products it ordered in the days before filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The deal requires Winn-Dixie to settle around $129 million in vendor claims via monthly payments over the next nine months, according to court papers. The charges cover goods received but not paid for during the 10 days before Winn-Dixie's Feb. 21 filing.

ADDITIONAL BSE TESTS NEGATIVE FOR SUSPECT COW

WASHINGTON -- Follow-up tests have determined that a cow suspected of harboring mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was actually free of the disease, officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week. After a "non-definitive" rapid screening test result was reported on July 27, the USDA followed its stricter new testing protocol, sending tissue samples both to its Ames, Iowa, testing facilities and to the United Kingdom's Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, England. It tested negative at both facilities following more stringent tests. "The initial non-definitive result was caused by [artificial or untrue] staining and, while this staining did not resemble BSE, we felt the prudent course was to conduct the additional tests," John Clifford, deputy administrator of the USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, said. (See Page 40 for more on BSE testing.)

CHAINS SUE MASTERCARD OVER INTERCHANGE FEES

NEW YORK -- The same group of retailers that last month sued Visa alleging that the credit card network fixed prices and restricted competition in relation to its so-called "interchange fees" last week filed suit against MasterCard with similar allegations in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York here, according to reports. Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons and Ahold filed the suit together, along with drug store chains Maxi Drug, Walgreens and CVS. They are seeking unspecified damages. MasterCard, Purchase, N.Y., could not be reached for comment.