WASHINGTON — The Consumer Price Index for food and beverages was 209.5 in March, up 0.2% from 209.1 in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor said. The gain followed a 0.4% advance in February. Meanwhile, the index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.9% in March, before seasonal adjustment. The March level of 213.5 was 4% higher than in March 2007.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the C.P.I. advanced 0.3% in March, which followed flat movement in February. Within the overall C.P.I., the index for energy rose 1.9% after a 0.5% decline in February. Within energy, the index for petroleum-based energy increased 2% and the index for energy services rose 1.9%.
The index for food at home, which rose 0.3% in February, increased 0.2% in March to 207.9.
A large increase in the index for cereal and bakery products was partially offset by a downturn in the index for dairy products. The other four major grocery store food groups registered small gains, the B.L.S. said.
The index for cereal and bakery products rose 1.3% to 236.3, which followed a 1.8% gain in February. In the category, prices for bread rose 2.1% and were 14.7% higher than a year earlier.
The index for fruits and vegetables rose 0.1%. A 2% increase in the index for fresh vegetables more than offset declines in the indexes for fresh fruits and for processed fruits and vegetables, which were down 1.1% and 0.9%, respectively.
The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs, which eased 0.1% in February, was virtually unchanged in March at 199.5. Increases in prices for beef, poultry and for other meats were offset by declines in prices for pork and for fish and seafood, the B.L.S. said.
The index for dairy products, meanwhile, fell 0.8% in March to 205.6. Milk prices declined 2.2% in the month but were still 13.3% higher than in March 2007, the B.L.S. said.
Other food at home climbed 0.1% to 178.2.
The index for nonalcoholic beverages, which fell 0.1% in February, rose 0.3% in March.
The other two components of the food and beverage index — food away from home and alcoholic beverages — increased 0.3% and declined 0.1%, respectively, the B.L.S. said.