Workplace health care to rise

Employers can expect to pay nearly 9 percent more for health care costs for their workers in 2011, the highest level in five years, according to a forecast released Monday. And employees will have to pay more than 12 percent more out of their pockets, according to the report from consulting group Hewitt Associates, which blames higher medical claim costs, an aging population and U.S. health care reform. The report projects average health care cost per employee will rise to $9,821 next year, up from $9,028 in 2010. Employees will pay $2,209, or 22.5 percent of the total premium, up 12.4 percent from a year ago.

Ford may trim model lineup

Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally said the second-biggest U.S. carmaker may reduce its product lineup to as few as 20 models. "There will be less than 30, on our way to 20 to 25," Mulally said after addressing the Confederation of British Industry in London Monday. Ford offered 97 models when Mulally became chief executive in 2006. Meanwhile, Chrysler Group Llc said Monday that it has fired 13 plant workers a Detroit TV station caught drinking alcohol and smoking what appeared to be marijuana during breaks. Two other employees got one-month unpaid layoffs.

Wal-Mart to buy Africa retailer

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, plans to buy Massmart Holdings Ltd. in a transaction worth about $4.6 billion, entering Africa in its biggest deal in more than a decade. Wal-Mart is ramping up international expansion as it attempts to make up for slowing growth in the United States, where same- store sales have fallen for five consecutive quarters.

Ben & Jerry's going unnatural

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's is dropping "all natural" from all labels after a request from a health advocacy group. The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the company confirmed the move Monday. The group told the company last month it should not use "all natural" if products contain alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, hydrogenated oil or other ingredients that are not natural. Ben & Jerry's, a unit of consumer products giant Unilever, said it's not changing any recipes. It's just removing the label from all products. The FDA has no formal definition for "natural."

Nestlé targets medical market

Nestlé will plow about $500 million into expanding its medical nutrition business over the next decade, in a bid to capture a slice of the growing market for foods to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity, the Swiss consumer company said Monday.

- Wire reports

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