SC business notebook, June 29

More bad news for Paula Deen

Paula Deen’s media and merchandising empire is collapsing. Sears, J.C. Penney and Walgreen said Friday that they’re cutting ties with Paula Deen, adding to the growing list of companies severing their relationship following revelations that the Southern celebrity chef used racial slurs in the past. Meanwhile, Paula Deen’s publisher has canceled a deal with her for multiple books, including an upcoming cookbook that was the No. 1 seller on and Barnes & Ballantine Books announced Friday it would not release “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up,” which was scheduled for October and was the first of a five-book deal announced early last year. Interest in it had surged as Deen, who grew up in Albany, Ga., and specializes in Southern comfort food, came under increasing attack for acknowledging she had used the N-word. QVC took a more gentle approach on Friday and said that it has decided to “take a pause” from Deen.

U.S. suspends Bangladesh trade privileges

The Obama administration on Thursday announced plans to suspend trade privileges for Bangladesh over concerns about safety problems and labor rights violations in the country’s garment industry. The administration has come under intense pressure to suspend the privileges in recent months — first after a factory fire there killed 112 workers last November and then after an eight-story factory building collapsed in April, killing 1,129 workers. Trade experts said the administration’s decision would be a substantial blow to Bangladesh’s reputation and was likely to ratchet up pressure on its government to move more quickly to improve factory safety and end what Washington sees as widespread violations of workers’ rights. Administration officials said they have offered Bangladesh a road map for steps it needed to take to have trade privileges restored. In a letter to Congress on Thursday, President Barack Obama said he was suspending the privileges, effective in 60 days, because Bangladesh was “not taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights to workers in that country.” Labor unions and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pressing the Obama administration to take the step, saying the United States needed to go beyond stern words and take strong action to convey to the Bangladeshi government that far more needed to be done to ensure factory safety.

Smithfield sale to be scrutinized

The Senate Agriculture Committee said Thursday that it would hold a hearing July 10 to examine Smithfield Foods’ $4.7 billion sale to Shuanghui International, a Chinese meat processor, stepping up government scrutiny of the deal. The inquiry is aimed at determining whether the sale poses risks to U.S. food standards and whether the review process for foreign companies buying U.S. food companies needs to be reconsidered. Smithfield Foods’ chief executive, C. Larry Pope, is scheduled to testify. Smithfield and Shuanghui have said that the transaction poses no risk to the country’s national security or food safety standards. Driving the deal is a desire by the Chinese company to import more American pork.

New York Times and The Associated Press contributed.