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Consumer Confidential: Food safety up, consumer confidence up, PC shipments down

November 30, 2010 |  9:58 am

Foodsafetypic Here's your titanically Tuesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--The Senate has finally passed a food-safety bill that could significantly beef up (sorry) regulation of what we put in our mouths. The bill, which President Obama supports, still needs to be reconciled with legislation passed by the House in July 2009. Consumer advocates say that if the bills become law, the nation's food-safety rules will receive their first major overhaul in decades. The Food Safety and Modernization Act would require improved planning and record-keeping by food producers, and would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to recall contaminated food under its own authority, instead of relying on industry cooperation. All of these are much-needed changes.

--Maybe it was all those Black Friday deals. Maybe it was Cyber Monday's online discounts. Whatever the reason, consumer confidence has hit its highest level in about half a year. The Conference Board, a private research group, says its index of consumer confidence rose to 54.1 in November, from a revised 49.9 in October. The November reading is the highest since 54.3 in June and was better than the 52.5 expected by economists. Retailers are taking this as an auspicious sign for holiday sales. I'm thinking maybe we're all just sick of being so darned gloomy.

--Looks like iPads are making their presence felt. Worldwide PC shipments are on pace to total 352.4 million units this year, a 14.3% increase from 2009, according to the latest forecast by market researcher Gartner. However, the projections are down from the company's previous PC shipment forecast in September of about 18% growth. Gartner attributes part of the decline to growing demand for iPads and other tablet computers. "Media tablets are expected to displace around 10% of PC units by 2014," said Ranjit Atwal, Gartner's research director. And as such devices get cooler and cheaper, that number will only grow.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: If new legislation becomes law, things we eat should become safer. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times