Consumer Briefing

USDA cuts price-rise prediction

Retail food prices in the U.S. will rise 2.5% to 3.5% this year, less than forecast in December, as costs for seafood, fats and oils decline, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

“Recovering global economies will lead to increased commodity and energy costs combined with stronger domestic and global food demand to push inflation up from the low 2009 levels,” USDA food economist Ephraim Leibtag said.

The department reduced its forecast for fish and seafood price gains to 3.5% to 4.5%, from 4% to 5% last month, and lowered its prediction for increases in fats and oils to 3% to 4%, from 4% to 5%.

Food consumed at home and meals bought at restaurants will rise 2.5% to 3.5%, according to the report.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said food prices fell 0.5% for 2009, the first annual drop since 1961. That followed a 5.9% advance in 2008, the biggest since 1980.


Watchdog slams Miller Lite claim

In a flap over a cap, an ad industry watchdog wants MillerCoors to modify its claims about flagship beer brand Miller Lite because it hasn’t made changes as the ads imply.

MillerCoors started advertising Miller Lite’s “Taste Protector” caps and lids last summer. But MillerCoors acknowledges that the tops don’t use new technology, so its ads can’t imply that they do, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus said.

The industry body looked into the matter after rival brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos. complained that MillerCoors had been saying that the new golden tops and lids on Miller Lite, which has been in a sales slump, had a special seal that “locks out air and locks in that Great Pilsner Taste.”

MillerCoors said it would take the nonbinding ruling into consideration.


Work at home? There’s a pattern

Americans working from home are likeliest to be white, college-educated female professionals who work long hours, data from the Census Bureau show.

In 2005, the most recent year for which numbers were available, there were 11.3 million home-based workers -- about 8% of the U.S. workforce -- up from 9.5 million in 1999. About 51% of home-based workers were women, the Census survey showed. The most common reported ages -- slightly more than half of those surveyed -- were from 35 to 54.

A quarter called themselves professionals, the largest occupation represented; 22% were administrative or managerial workers; and 18% worked in sales. Those who labored at home were more likely to report working longer hours -- 11 or more in a regular workday.

Nearly half had a bachelor’s degree, and an additional one-third had some college education. In the general population, 28% of adults 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree in 2005. By 2008, according to Census data, that had risen slightly, to 29%.


Bottles, stoppers pose shatter risk

About 11,000 glass water bottles sold at Starbucks stores are being recalled because the container or its stopper can shatter when the stopper is removed or inserted, posing an injury hazard.

Starbucks Corp. received 10 reports of glass stoppers or water bottles shattering, including eight reports of cuts to the hand.

The clear glass water bottles have the SKU number 11003503 on the bottom.

They were sold at Starbucks-operated stores and at Starbucks locations in Safeway and Target stores nationwide. Information: (877) 492-6333, or

-- times wire reports