As the temperatures in most parts of the United States were falling last year, one thing was on a steady rise: retail food prices. According to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey, the total cost of 16 food items typically used for meal preparation inched up 80 cents to $46.97 during the fourth quarter of 2010—a 2 percent increase compared to the third quarter of last year. The total average price for the 16 items was up $4.07—or about 10 percent—from the fourth quarter of 2009.

The foods that saw the greatest increase are all staples of the American breakfast, lunch and dinner table: bacon, eggs, whole milk, sliced deli ham and bread.

The latest food prices report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations painted a more serious picture. As the FAO reported on January 5, worldwide commodity food prices at the end of 2010 hit an all-time high, even exceeding the record prices of 2008 that triggered protests and food hoarding around the globe. The food items that saw the sharpest increase were sugars and fats.

Last year’s price hikes may not be over. FAO experts predict that food prices will likely continue a steady upward march this year.

A confluence of factors can affect global food prices, including weather, consumer demand and trade issues. The sharp rise in December food prices is being primarily attributed to the impact of severe weather events on crop harvests.