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WEB SITES FERRET OUT SAFE FOOD CHOICES

Perhaps the ultimate way consumers are finding to vet their food options - Wild or farmed salmon? Sustainably farmed crops? - is the Internet. It has, of course, broadened choice, allowing people to buy directly from producers. But just as important are Web sites - Ethicurean, Grist, the Slow Cook - that help shoppers make choices they can feel comfortable about.

The Ethicurean (www.ethicurean.com), a site that focuses on "ethical" food, is a classic example. Founded in 2006 by Berkeley, Calif., resident Bonnie Powell, the site is a mix of personal essays and news.

One of the more popular posts is Powell's early report on Judy's Family Farm eggs. Powell researched the business, whose packages evoke an idyllic country farm. In fact, the brand belongs to Petaluma Farms, a large producer in California. That knowledge alone changed some shoppers' buying habits.

Such advocacy is having an impact. A GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media survey showed that 64 percent of consumers thought advocates and activist groups had their best interests in mind when it comes to food choices, followed by retail grocers (62 percent), food manufacturers (53 percent), the government (47 percent) and fast-food companies (26 percent).

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