Customer loyalty cards proving to be a useful food safety tool

Customer loyalty cards swiped at grocery store check-out lanes helped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) track the source of a Salmonella infection outbreak to the course pepper used by a salami manufacturer in Rhode Island.

Earlier this month, the CDC used information from shopper bonus cards to pinpoint the source of items that sickened nearly 250 people in 44 states. People who were ill gave public health officials permission to retrieve purchase information based on their loyalty card numbers.

A few store chains, including Costco, Wegman’s and Price Chopper,  already use information generated by their bonus cards to inform consumers who have purchased products that later ended up on recall lists. A consumer protection group says more retailers should use their loyalty card program not just to build their databases but to help protect the public from being sickened by contaminated foods.

“If a retailer knows the address, phone number, or email address of someone who has purchased contaminated peanut butter, spinach, or salami, the company should take advantage of that opportunity to prevent future illnesses from recalled products,” according to Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Food Safety Attorney Sarah Klein.

Kathlyn Stone

Kathlyn Stone is a Twin Cities, Minnesota-based writer who has covered general news, and business, international trade, and health care news and policies for public and professional audiences.