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Consumer Confidential: Food prices up, could go higher; Chrysler recalls minivans

March 3, 2011 |  9:26 am

Foodpic Here's your there's-a-place-for-us Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Food prices were up last month and could rise even more if the instability in North Africa and the Middle East pushes oil prices higher. According to the United Nations, the food price index, which measures prices for a basket of food commodities, rose 2.2% last month. The index has increased for eight months in a row, and is at the highest level since it was created in 1990. Sugar prices were slightly lower in February, compared with the month before. But prices for cereals, dairy products, meats and all other commodities in the index rose. The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization says it expects cereal prices to be sharply higher this year, due to shrinking inventories of wheat and coarse grains on top of growing demand. Global food prices have been moving higher in recent months as demand from emerging nations increases, and bad weather in certain parts of the world has cut the supply of key agricultural commodities. But the recent run-up in oil prices threatens to make the situation even worse, the Food and Agriculture Organization warned.

--Another day, another car recall. This time it's Chrysler recalling almost 250,000 model year 2010 minivans and crossover SUVs because of a problem that can lead to sudden engine-stalling. The ignition in the vehicles can apparently be bumped or shaken into the "accessory power" position while driving, which would cause the engine to immediately shut off. At least two rear-end collisions have been blamed on the problem. The recall involves 2010 model year Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan minivans, and Dodge Journey SUVs manufactured between June 3, 2009 and Aug. 17, 2010. Chrysler dealers will replace ignition modules on the vehicles with new ones that the company says are less prone to accidental shutoff.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: She might not be smiling if cereal prices go higher. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press