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Consumer Confidential: Netflix down, food prices up, masks recalled

October 25, 2011 | 10:04 am

Here's your turn-the-beat-around Tuesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Netflix is still smarting from its screwups. The company's shares plunged 35% after the one-time Wall Street favorite revealed a massive departure of subscribers angered by price increases and other questionable changes at the rental service that was created to make entertainment a snap. Netflix revealed late Monday that it ended September with 23.8 million U.S. subscribers. That's down about 800,000 from June and worse than what the company had hinted at before. In September, the company predicted it will lose about 600,000 U.S. customers. And it may get worse. Netflix said it expects more defections in coming months. Clearly this company better come up with some good news, and soon, or more people will jump ship.

-- Your grocery bill is still going up. The government says food prices are expected to climb by as much as 4.5% this year, an increase of one-half of a percentage point from its prior forecast, as higher commodity costs continue to filter down to consumers. The estimate comes after months of increases in individual items, particularly meat and poultry. Pork and beef prices have soared to record highs this year as surging export demand, particularly from China, has driven prices higher even while domestic demand remained sluggish. A jump in grain prices, which increases the cost of feeding livestock, has driven the broader jump in food prices this year.

-- Heads up: There's a recall of Halloween masks. Target is recalling about 3,400 children's frog masks because they lack proper ventilation. When secured in place across a child's face, the mask poses a risk of suffocation. The Chinese-made masks were sold at Target outlets nationwide from August through September for about $1. If you bought one, return the mask to any Target for a full refund.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Netflix is getting slammed by investors for losing subscribers. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press