Higher food prices eating at consumers' wallets

NEW YORK — Next to gas, the rising cost of food almost always tops consumers' list of spending concerns, and those concerns will surely rise as food prices reached peak levels last month, according to the Labor Department's Producer Price Index. The particularly high increase in the cost of both fresh and dry vegetables not only hurts consumer wallets, but could also curtail efforts, such as this partnership between First Lady Obama and Walmart, to encourage Americans to eat healthier.

The index noted that the month of February experienced a surge of 3.9% in food prices, the largest increase since a 4.2% climb reported in November 1974. PPI also noted that about 70% of the February rise can be attributed to higher prices for fresh and dry vegetables, which jumped 48.7%.

The Labor Department noted that, when seasonally adjusted, the PPI for finished goods increased 1.6%. This rise followed advances of 0.8% in January and 0.9% in December 2010, as well as the largest increase in finished goods prices since a 1.9% increase in June 2009.

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