By STEPHEN BARLAS
WASHINGTON -- The Federal Trade Commission is trying to determine whether the yardsticks they have used in the past to measure the legality of proposed supermarket mergers are still accurate enough to use today with regard to the Whole Foods/Wild Oats and A&P/Pathmark acquisitions. That casting about for current "intelligence" was reflected in the FTC's conference on grocery store antitrust issues held here yesterday at an FTC satellite location in the shadow of the historic Union Station near Capitol Hill. About 100 listeners heard day-long presentations, none of which addressed the Whole Foods and A&P mergers directly. But they clearly cast a long shadow. One attorney for one of the four companies involved in the two mergers said, "Anytime you get economists involved in something like this it leads to a more sophisticated understanding of the current environment. Michael Salinger, director of the FTC's Bureau of Economics, which sponsored the conference, told SN that the conference had been planned well in advance of the announcement of the proposed A&P and Whole Foods acquisitions.
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