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Washington dairy exports up sharply

KENNEWICK – The value of Washington’s dairy exports has soared.

According to the state Department of Agriculture, the state exported more than $461 million worth of dairy products in 2011. That’s a 35 percent increase in three years.

Washington is the nation’s second-largest exporter of dairy products, after California. Darigold, which is owned by the Northwest Dairy Association, a co-op representing about 85 percent of the dairy farmers in Washington, says it has been expanding exports consistently.

Dermot Carey, a senior vice president at Darigold, says it’s exporting more to Asia as economic growth fuels demand for dairy products in countries that don’t have the infrastructure or climate to increase their own milk production.

The Yakima Valley is one of the largest dairy-producing areas in the nation. Benton, Franklin, Klickitat and Yakima counties have 91 dairies and more than 110,000 cows.

In 2011, the state’s milk production was valued at $1.3 billion, up 34 percent from 2010.

McDonald’s settles Islamic diet suit

DEARBORN, Mich. – McDonald’s and one of its franchise owners agreed to pay $700,000 to members of the Muslim community to settle allegations a Detroit-area restaurant falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law.

McDonald’s and Finley’s Management Co. agreed Friday to the tentative settlement, with that money to be shared by Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.

Ahmed’s attorney, Kassem Dakhlallah, told the Associated Press on Monday that he’s “thrilled” with the preliminary deal that’s expected to be finalized March 1. McDonald’s and Finley’s Management deny any liability but say the settlement is in their best interests.

The lawsuit alleged that Ahmed bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a Dearborn McDonald’s but found it wasn’t halal – meaning it didn’t meet Islamic requirements for preparing food. Islam forbids consumption of pork, and God’s name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered.

Dakhlallah said there are only two McDonald’s in the United States that sell halal products and both are in Dearborn, which has one of the nation’s largest Arab and Muslim communities.

The locations advertise that they exclusively sell halal Chicken McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches and they have to get those products from an approved halal provider, Dakhlallah said. He said there was no evidence of problems on the production side, but he alleges that the Dearborn location on Ford Road sold non-halal products when it ran out of halal.

Groupon drops gun-related deals

CHICAGO – Groupon Inc. has stopped all current and future gun-related deals, bowing to customer pressure a month after the deadly mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The Chicago company said Monday it has canceled existing and planned discounts for shooting ranges, conceal-and-carry and clay shooting.

The statement didn’t specify the company’s motives or when it would resume such deals, other than to say that the “category is under review following recent customer and merchant feedback.”

The move has come under fire from some businesses who say their deals were canceled abruptly because of the change in policy.

Air disruptions continue in Europe

LONDON – Hundreds of flights were canceled in Britain, France and Germany on Monday as snow and ice blanketed Western Europe.

London’s Heathrow airport canceled about 130 flights, 10 percent of the daily total, compared to 20 percent on Sunday.

Flights have been disrupted since Friday at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, which has seen long lines and stranded passengers camping out on the floors of its terminals.

Heathrow says it has spent millions improving its winter resilience since the airport was virtually shut down by snow for several days in December 2010. But it says low visibility means it must leave bigger gaps between planes, triggering delays and cancellations.

Forty percent of flights were canceled at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris.

Frankfurt airport, Germany’s largest, told the dpa news agency Monday that 180 flights had been canceled because of icy conditions caused by freezing rain overnight.