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FMI, GMA kick off Nutrition Keys to fight obesity

BY Allison Cerra

PHOENIX — In an effort to curb obesity rates in the United States, two lobbying groups announced a joint effort to fight the epidemic.

The Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association said that Nutrition Keys, a voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labeling system, will help consumers make healthier choices when purchasing food. Front-of-pack nutrition labels place important nutrition information (i.e., calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium) where they can’t be dismissed or ignored.

"Food and beverage companies have a strong track record of providing consumers with the products, tools and information they need to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, and this program represents a significant milestone in our ongoing effort to help consumers construct a healthy diet," said Pamela Bailey, GMA president and CEO.

Several retailers and food manufacturers, including Hy-Vee, ConAgra and Campbell’s, expressed their support of the initiative.

In line with the program, FMI and GMA will launch a $50 million consumer education campaign, the organizations said.

"Today’s sophisticated consumer wants more information about their food than ever before," said Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI. "Nutrition Keys, combined with the many innovative nutrition education tools and programs in retail stores, is helping us meet that challenge and exceed consumer expectations."

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Rite Aid kicks off contest for Wellness+ members

BY Michael Johnsen

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid on Monday sweetened the pot for those loyalty card members braving the cold and visiting the pharmacy in February.

With the purchase of $100 or more of specially marked products throughout the store, Rite Aid’s Wellness+ cardholders can earn a $20 +Up Reward, and at the same time be automatically entered into a sweepstakes featuring more than $100,000 in prizes, as part of Rite Aid’s new Winter Rewards Program through Feb. 26.

Prizes include Panasonic 3-D 50-in. plasma TVs, ski or snowboard equipment packages, On the Edge 3-in-1 combination table games, Flip Slide HD video cameras and Rite Aid gift cards. The grand prize is an eight-day/seven-night Hawaiian cruise for two on board Norwegian Cruises’ Pride of America.

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CDC issues report on flu activity in the United States

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — Influenza activity in the United States decreased across several indicators, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday, though the agency projected that illness rates for the season have not yet peaked.

Of all influenza A viruses tested since Oct. 30, 2010, only 15.8% were identified as the 2009 H1N1 virus; 44.6% of the specimens were identified as an H3N2 virus. That virus is similar to the H3N2 component of the 2010-2011 triumvirate influenza vaccine.

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 2.9%, which is above the national baseline of 2.5%. Four states experienced high ILI activity: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Thirty states continue to record only minimal ILI activity.

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