Befuddling swirl of news poses challenges to baking

by Morton Sosland
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It’s quite a week when disclosure that gross domestic product shrank at a 6.1% annual rate in the first quarter is relegated to the background by the news media. But that’s exactly what occurred last week amid a flurry of media distractions ranging from scarily uncertain (the flu outbreak), to shocking (the decision by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania to switch parties) to silly (the obsession with grading the president’s first 100 days in office).

Among the more vexing questions overhanging the market in recent months is the degree to which the massive government stimulus package and various Federal Reserve actions will trigger a wave of inflation in the future. The rise in yields on 10-year notes to a five-month high accelerated those concerns. Still, many factors suggested an opposite course, including continuing high unemployment, pay cuts at many companies, weak housing prices and abysmal car demand. More recently, signs of greater strength in private label at retail suggested an ongoing risk of serious deflation.

The uncertainties swirling around markets are as vexing for grain-based foods as any other sector. Against this backdrop was a matter of great concern — the late week gathering of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. It is tough for bakers not to worry about the continuing public pressures to reduce white bread intake. It is only when pitted against the myriad other severe problems facing the nation that the guidelines committee could conceivably be considered a receptive audience for baking.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Milling and Baking News, May 5, 2009, starting on Page 4. Click
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