NEWS WATCH: BUSH PUTS FOCUS ON SECURITY OF FOOD SUPPLY...STATER BROS. ACQUIRES FULL OWNERSHIP OF DAIRY...ALBERTSONS INTRODUCES 'BLUE RIBBON' BEEF BRAND

BUSH PUTS FOCUS ON SECURITY OF FOOD SUPPLYident Bush issued last week calling for a national policy to defend the nation's food supply against terrorist attacks indicates that the Department of Homeland Security is ready to focus more of its attention on that area, according to Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer, Food Marketing Institute, based here. "As [Homeland Security] has done

BUSH PUTS FOCUS ON SECURITY OF FOOD SUPPLY

ident Bush issued last week calling for a national policy to defend the nation's food supply against terrorist attacks indicates that the Department of Homeland Security is ready to focus more of its attention on that area, according to Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer, Food Marketing Institute, based here. "As [Homeland Security] has done a more thorough assessment of vulnerabilities throughout the U.S., it's clear that agriculture needed some additional attention," he told SN last week. Among other directives, the order empowers Homeland Security to coordinate the efforts of several other agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector in monitoring the food supply. Susan Stout, vice president, federal affairs, Grocery Manufacturers of America, agreed that the order would help streamline communication. "I think it's an effort by the administration to make sure that there's good coordination between all the agencies and constituents on how to develop new ways and new ideas to secure the food supply, whether it's the seeds or the finished products," she said.

STATER BROS. ACQUIRES FULL OWNERSHIP OF DAIRY

COLTON, Calif. -- Stater Bros. Markets here said last week it has acquired the outstanding 50% of Santee Dairies, City of Industry, Calif., from Kroger-owned Ralphs. The transaction gives Stater Bros. 100% ownership of Santee, which produces milk and buttermilk sold under the Knudsen label and also produces dairy products for several Southern California supermarket chains, including Stater Bros., Ralphs, Bristol Farms and Gelson's.

ALBERTSONS INTRODUCES 'BLUE RIBBON' BEEF BRAND

BOISE, Idaho -- Albertsons here has introduced high-quality beef roasts and steaks under a new Blue Ribbon label to all 2,300 stores in all divisions. The new brand will be marketed under the names "Albertsons Blue Ribbon" in all Albertsons stores, "Jewel Blue Ribbon" in the company's Jewel/Osco units, and "Lancaster Blue Ribbon" in Acme stores, according to officials.

BURKLE'S YUCAIPA COS. TO SELL LAST FOOD HOLDING

LOS ANGELES -- Yucaipa Cos. here, a major player in food industry consolidation in the late 1990s, is reportedly on the verge of selling its remaining food holding -- Golden State Foods, Irvine, Calif., which is the largest supplier of products to McDonald's. Yucaipa is headed by Ron Burkle. Golden State will reportedly be acquired by Wetterau Associates, St. Louis, for an undisclosed sum. Neither Yucaipa nor Wetterau would comment on the reports. Yucaipa and an investment partner acquired Golden State in 1998 from Butler Capital, a New York-based buyout firm.

KROGER MEMPHIS EMPLOYEES RATIFY NEW CONTRACT

CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. here said last week that members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1529, Cordova, Tenn., have approved two four-year contracts covering 6,500 workers at the company's stores in Memphis, western Tennessee and Mississippi. The new clerks' contract will raise the top hourly rate for department heads to as much as $15.80 by the last year of the agreement. In the same period, the top rate for full-time clerks will reach $12.16 an hour and the top rate for part-timers is $9.50 an hour. The second contract, which covers meat, seafood and deli workers, will raise the top hourly rate for meat department heads to $17.77 per hour over the term of the agreement. Kroger added that in both contracts it will increase its payment for employee health care benefits by 8%.