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The U.S. bread industry is to hold a crisis “bread summit” on Friday to discuss falling sales amid the growing craze for protein-rich, low-carbohydrate regimes, such as the Atkins diet.

Some 40 percent of U.S. consumers are eating less bread than they were a year ago, according to the National Bread Leadership Council, which is organizing the meeting. The summit will focus on ways to dispel what the industry believes is misinformation encouraging consumers to switch from bread to meat.

The council’s Patrick Davis said that while the average American eats 54 pounds of bread a year, the Italians and French consume almost three times as much but do not suffer from obesity. More than a hundred industry representatives, including executives from General Mills and Sara Lee, are expected at the meeting in Rhode Island.

An estimated 32 million Americans are on low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets, according to a survey sponsored by Novartis. According to Atkins Nutritionals, about one-third of the U.S. population is doing some sort of “controlled carbohydrate” diet. In the UK, sales of Atkins books have topped 2.5m copies.

Meanwhile, the bakers’ loss is the butchers’ gain. Last week, Tyson Foods, the U.S.’s biggest meat supplier, reported a 75 percent jump in earnings, largely due to rising beef demand and a sharp increase in prices.

© The Financial Times Ltd 2013. "FT" and "Financial Times" are trademarks of the Financial Times.

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