Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 17:13 UK

Food prices falling in US stores

By Jon Donnison
BBC News, Washington

Man cramming a hot dog into his mouth
The Hot Dog Eating contest attracts entrants from all over the world

Americans famously eat a lot and are renowned for being among the biggest food consumers in the world.

On 4 July a man broke the world record for hot dog consumption - 68 dogs in 10 minutes, which works out at something like 1,000 calories a minute

But as far as costs are concerned for both the indulgent, and for the more regular consumer, prices seem to have fallen sharply in the past year.

For the last 12 months, the BBC has been monitoring prices at one Safeway supermarket in central Washington.

We look at the price of potatoes, eggs, meat, bread and milk, and we found that at this shop, at least, prices of these goods fell on average by 17% in the past year.

This is of course only one supermarket in one US city, but US government figures from the Department of Labour also show a drop in food prices over the past year nationwide.

Supermarket pressure

One explanation could be that millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the last year because of the recession, so they have less money and supermarkets are having to try a bit harder to entice their customers in.

The BBC is Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy, looking at a range of subjects this summer
Consumer behaviour - how have lifestyles changed over the year
Food prices - which remain a concern particularly in many developing economies
Highly volatile energy prices - which have been a major issue in the past year
The plight of migrant workers - as the global recession takes hold in many economies
Housing markets - which have turned from boom to bust in many countries
Rising unemployment levels - as firms cut back because of falling orders

That is certainly the case as far as stallholder Tom Calamaris is concerned.

He runs a small fruit and vegetable stall at Eastern Market in Washington DC and says his business is really being squeezed by the big supermarkets bringing prices down - something he has not been able to afford to do.

"I just can't do that," he says, "I know a lot of the big businesses can because they make millions of dollars."

Admitting he cannot compete, he warns, "Mama and Pop businesses go out of business because the big businesses swallow them up."

Like Tom, many shoppers are also facing tough economic times at the moment.

That might be one reason why it is difficult to find anyone who has noticed making any great savings in the past year, despite the apparent drop in food prices shown in the BBC research.

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