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Mars Chocolate introduces Marathon Smart Stuff energy bars

BY Allison Cerra

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. — Mars Chocolate is looking to breathe new life into the energy bar market.

The company announced the launch of its new Marathon Smart Stuff bars, which combine real chocolate with such wholesome ingredients as blueberries, cranberries and peanuts. Each bar contains 140 calories or less per serving, a blend of eight essential vitamins and minerals, and is an excellent source of calcium, Mars Chocolate said.

"[The] Marathon Smart Stuff bar addresses the growing trend of consumers embracing energy bars as a healthier, enjoyable way to get through the day," Mars Chocolate director of new chocolate ventures John Wyckoff said. "Be it a student rushing in between classes or a mom looking for snacks for her family on a long road trip, this bar totally satisfies by combining great taste with healthy ingredients."

Marathon Smart Stuff bars are available in crunchy multigrain, crunchy chocolate crisp, crunchy honey graham and crunchy trail mix flavors, and can be purchased at select mass, food, drug and convenience stores.

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FDA seeks comments on gluten-free food labeling

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration is looking for comments from consumers, the food industry and others about proposed labeling for gluten-free foods.

Originally proposed in 2007, the proposals include a requirement that foods labeled as "gluten-free" can’t contain 20 parts per million or more gluten, a protein that occurs in wheat, rye and barley. The proposal was based on technologies used to detect gluten in food, which can’t detect it reliably if the level is less than 20 ppm.

The agency also is making available a safety assessment of exposure to gluten for people with celiac disease, a condition affecting around 1% of Americans that causes intolerance to gluten and can lead to damage of the small intestine and interference in the absorption of nutrients.

"Before finalizing our gluten-free definition, we want up-to-date input from affected consumers, the food industry and others to help assure that the label strikes the right balance," FDA deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor said. "We must take into account the need to protect individuals with celiac disease from adverse health consequences while ensuring that food manufacturers can meet the needs of consumers by producing a wide variety of gluten-free foods."

Gluten-free foods have become more common on store shelves in recent years. Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid stocks them at its new Wellness format stores, such as the one in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and New York chain Duane Reade includes a selection of gluten-free options in many of its stores, including the newly opened location on Wall Street. Last August, St. Louis-based supermarket Schnucks Markets partnered with Ellisville, Mo.-based Beck’s Gluten Free to provide fresh and prepared gluten-free foods that customers could order by phone or online and pick up the next day.

Comments can be submitted to the FDA at Regulations.gov. The docket will be open starting Wednesday afternoon for 60 days.

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California joins six other states in caffeinated beer ban

BY Allison Cerra

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Legislation designed to ban the availability of caffeinated alcoholic beverages in California has become law.

California governor Jerry Brown signed SB 39, a bill drafted by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, that prohibits the production and sale of caffeinated beer beverages at retail locations throughout the state. With the passage of SB 39, California joins Massachusetts, New York, Washington, Utah, Michigan and Kansas in banning these drinks.

The bill was first introduced in late 2010.

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