While some people consider them a privacy infringement, customer loyalty cards can prevent consumption of contaminated foods.

There’s no question that customer loyalty cards can be a valuable tool in preventing consumers from eating contaminated foods. According to Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Food Safety Attorney Sarah Klein, rather than the few retailers who now make use of customer loyalty cards as a track-and-trace tool-such as Costco, Wegmans and Price Chopper-all retailers should use the tool to alert customers when they purchase food products that are later recalled.

A year ago, CSPI called on retailers to begin using their cards to help in the recall process. According to Klein, who cites an AP article discussing how CDC made use of critical information gleaned from the cards, the cards speeded identification of the contaminated salami that sickened nearly 250 people in 44 states, preventing a much bigger outbreak from occurring. This successful outcome, she says, should get other retailers thinking about how they can protect their customers when the next outbreak hits.

The bonus cards swiped at grocery stores can do more than save consumers money and generate powerful marketing databases, says Klein. The cards can help retailers contact consumers via phone or email, warning them not to eat a contaminated product.