There was no doubting the top food industry story this week after Brazilian food groups Perdigao and Sadia announced plans to merge – and became the first piece of major international M&A in the sector for months. The price of milk is again proving a bone of contention in France, with protests and blockades across the country – and the promise of another national day of demonstrations on Monday. US discount retailer Target Corp. remains embroiled in its own spat: this time with activist investors unhappy with the company’s performance. And Marks and Spencer, the UK retailer, issued its latest update on its performance, which did not make for happy reading.

These are the top ten stories on just-food this week.

BRAZIL: Perdigao, Sadia announce tie-up
Brazil’s largest food company Perdigao and smaller rival Sadia today (19 May) announced a long-awaited merger that will see the creation of the world’s largest poultry company.

For the reasons why the economic crisis prompted the Perdigao/Sadia tie-up, click here.

FRANCE: National milk protests planned
The French farmers union has called on the country’s milk producers to take part in nationwide protests to be held tomorrow (19 May).

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UPDATE: US: Target launches fresh attack on Pershing Square
Target Corp. said today (20 May) that boardroom foe, the hedge fund Pershing Square, has presented a “risky” and “speculative” proposal in the battle over nominations to the US retailer’s board.

UK: M&S cuts dividend as full-year profits drop
UK retailer Marks and Spencer posted a drop in annual profits this morning (19 May) and cut its dividend by a third.

UK: Reckitt exec to become Tate & Lyle boss
UK ingredients company Tate & Lyle has appointed Reckitt Benckiser executive Javed Ahmed as its new CEO.

SPAIN: SOS plans lawsuit; names CEO
Olive oil maker Grupo SOS is to take legal action against former company executives found to have used a company loan to buy shares.

JAPAN: Lawson abandons am/pm takeover
Japanese retailer Lawson has abandoned plans to take over am/pm Japan Co., citing difficulties in reaching a trademark agreement with its smaller rival.

US: Sara Lee sues Kraft’s Oscar Mayer
Sara Lee has filed a hot dog lawsuit against fellow US food giant Kraft Foods’ Oscar Mayer business.

AUS: Parmalat buys National Foods milk assets
Parmalat has snapped up a clutch of fresh milk assets in Australia up for grabs after owner National Foods bought Dairy Farmers last year.

UK: FSA sets more “challenging” salt reduction targets
The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set more “challenging” salt reduction targets for 2012, in a bid to ensure manufacturers and retailers continue to reduce the salt content of food.