SALMONELLA IN IRRIGATION WATER
WASHINGTON — U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials, working to determine the source of the salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 1,300 U.S. consumers this summer, last week said they had discovered a strain of Salmonella Saintpaul in the irrigation water used at a pepper farm in Nuevo Léon, Mexico. Salmonella Saintpaul is a unique strain of the pathogen that has been linked to all of the illnesses in this outbreak. “We have a smoking gun, it appears,” Dr. Lonnie King, who directs the center for foodborne illnesses at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Associated Press. Using information provided by the CDC, the FDA had initially blamed the outbreak on tomatoes, but never managed to find a contaminated tomato during traceback. At a hearing last week, FDA officials insisted that tomatoes have not been ruled out, and that it's possible the outbreak was caused by multiple types of produce (see related stories on Pages 1 and 25).
MERVYNS, BENNIGAN'S BANKRUPT
HAYWARD, Calif. — In more signs of a troubling economy for retailers, the respective parents of the Mervyns department store chain and the Bennigan's and Steak & Ale restaurants separately filed for bankruptcy protection last week. Mervyns, based here, said it will continue to operate its 176 stores while restructuring its debt under Chapter 11. Mervyn's is owned by hedge fund Cerberus Capital, which also purchased Albertsons stores in that retailer's breakup. Plano, Texas-based Metromedia Restaurant Group, which operates Bennigan's and Steak & Ale, closed all of its corporate stores concurrent with a Chapter 7 filing that would allow it to liquidate assets.
HOUCHENS BUYS TAMPICO BEVERAGES
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Houchens Industries here said it has acquired Chicago-based Tampico Beverages, a maker of refrigerated juice drinks and juice concentrates with annual sales reported to be about $350 million. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Houchens is an employee-owned operator of supermarkets in the Southeast and Midwest, and also owns several other businesses.
STOP & SHOP MAY DROP DUNKIN' BRAND
QUINCY, Mass. — Stop & Shop here may be closing some or all of the 132 Dunkin' Donuts locations in its stores and replacing them with Starbucks, according to local reports. A spokesman for Stop & Shop, owned by Amsterdam-based Ahold, confirmed that the chain's leases with Dunkin' Donuts expire next year but declined to comment further on the reports. In a prepared statement, Stephen J. Caldeira, chief global communications and public affairs officer for Dunkin' Brands, said, “Any reports about our stores located inside Stop & Shop supermarkets are speculative.” Stop & Shop inked a five-year deal with Starbucks in 2006 to develop an unspecified number of in-store cafes.
CALIFORNIA TO BAN TRANS FATS
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's restaurants must be trans fat-free by 2010, and retail baked goods sold in the state must eliminate the artificial fats by 2011, according to new state legislation signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill makes California the first state in the nation to ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils, following similar moves by a handful of major cities, including New York and Philadelphia.