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Sealing Lips (and Deals)

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Clorox Co. just received approval from federal regulators to close on its acquisition of Burt's Bees, the personal products company that makes lip balm, soaps and other skin products. The $925 million deal approved by the Federal Trade Commission took many in the industry by surprise when it was announced last month, since Burt’s Bees always exhibited a strong independent streak — certainly not a hive player.

But it was no more a surprise than Kellogg’s quiet announcement earlier this month that it had snapped up both Bear Naked, the natural/organic granola company; and California-based Wholesome & Hearty Foods Co., which markets vegetarian foods under the Gardenburger brand. This deal, worth a combined $122 million, only came to light when Kellogg’s filed its quarterly 10-Q report with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It seems the the whole health business is poised for more surprises in 2008. The question is: Will large corporations come out from behind the curtain and start providing the transparency health and wellness consumers have come to expect from the companies making their food?

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