The storm could cost the US econpmy $20bn, according to some estimates

The storm could cost the US econpmy $20bn, according to some estimates

Food manufacturers in the US, including Hershey and Nestle, have kept sites closed after Hurricane Sandy hit the east of the country last night.

Confectionery giant Hershey confirmed to just-food its facilities in Pennsylvania remained shut for a second day.

Nestle's US arm said facilities including its Nestle Nutrition site in Florham Park in New Jersey would be closed "at least through Tuesday".

Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard of the US yesterday evening local time. The US National Hurricane Center said the storm hit Atlantic City at 2000 ET, with sustained winds of 80mph or more and flood tides as high as 13 feet.

President Obama declared New York City a major disaster area. According to the federal government, over 8m homes and businesses across 17 states were without power. Half of those affected were in New York and New Jersey. NBC News reported 27 had been killed at the time of writing.

Reuters and Bloomberg have reported the economic cost of the storm could be as much as US$20bn, although it will be months before the full impact can be accurately estimated.

In the food industry, manufacturers have closed production sites and offices and retailers have shut stores.

PepsiCo, Unilever and Mars Inc were among the companies that had closed sites in the eastern part of the US yesterday.

PepsiCo told just-food today its offices in Westchester County remain closed. "Several of our sites throughout the affected region have lost power and are starting their assessment to determine the impact of the storm. We are working to resume operations as quickly and as safely as possible," a spokesperson said.

A statement on Wal-Mart Stores' website said as many as 294 "facilities" had been closed, including stores, clubs and distribution centres.

Convenience retailer 7-Eleven said around 350 stores on the East Coast were closed as of this morning, mostly due to power outages or forced evacuations. At the height of the emergency, some 500 stores were closed, it said.

"We are working around the clock with product suppliers, fresh food commissaries and bakeries to provide new products daily to the stores, as well as working with gasoline wholesalers and terminals to make deliveries to our higher-volume gasoline stores," 7-Eleven said.

Belgian retailer Delhaize Group, which owns US chains including Food Lion and Hannaford, told just-food overnight it had closed over 130 stores in the region.