BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) _ About 350 hourly workers at the Battle Creek Ralston Foods plant began striking Wednesday after negotiators failed to reach a new contract agreement.

The contract for members of Local 66 of the American Federation of Grain Millers expired at midnight Tuesday.

``We negotiated right up to 2:45 a.m. _ until the company put their last offer on the table,'' said Kurt Ploehn, a mill operator acting as spokesman for the striking workers.

He said unresolved issues include planned job reductions and health and retirement benefits.

Workers at the plant produce a variety of Chex cereals, as well as more than a dozen private-label or generic store brands. The plant is a division of St. Louis-based Ralcorp Holdings Inc.

Neither the union president nor company officials could be reached for comment.