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Higher food prices are pushing overall inflation up in developing countries and contributing to political unrest. China said Tuesday that consumer prices rose 4.9 percent in January, driven by a 10.3 percent jump in food costs. Rising food prices led to five days of riots in Algeria last month that left three people dead.

The impact has been much smaller in the United States. Americans spend a much smaller proportion of their budgets on food — about 14 percent, compared with 40 percent to 50 percent overseas.

And commodity costs make up a smaller portion of food prices. Transportation, processing and packaging account for a much larger chunk, said Kurt Karl, chief U.S. economist at Swiss Re. That means big swings in grain costs have less effect at U.S. grocery stores.

In developing countries, people are more likely to buy raw commodities and prepare basic foods such as bread at home, Mr. Karl said. And as people in poorer countries spend more on food, they are more likely to push for higher wages to cover those costs. That leads companies to raise prices further, pushing inflation higher in a vicious cycle.

Central banks in some countries, including China and Brazil, are taking steps to thwart inflation, such as rising interest rates. Those actions could slow their economic growth and cut into U.S. exports.

Fed officials unanimously concluded late last month that inflation isn’t yet a problem in the United States, according to minutes from their January meeting. The central bank anticipates that inflation won’t exceed 1.7 percent this year.

Still, many prices are starting to rise. The cost of clothing climbed 1 percent in January, as companies sought to offset the rising price of cotton.

Airline fares increased for the fifth month in a row, rising 2.2 percent. Airlines are paying about 50 percent more for fuel than they did a year ago. They have raised fares or fuel surcharges on leisure travelers five times since December.

Gas prices rose 3.5 percent in January.

The cost of housing, which makes up about 40 percent of the core index, rose 0.1 percent, reflecting increases in rents.

Some goods and services are getting cheaper. New- and used-car prices fell. Hotel prices dropped 1 percent. Computer and technology equipment costs fell 0.8 percent.