The latest reminder that restaurants and grocers can benefit from implementing food recall risk management plans: two customers of Safeway grocery stores filed a class-action lawsuit contending that store should have used Safeway Club Card contact information to notify consumers sooner about recalled food they purchased.
The lawsuit does not contend that the plaintiffs suffered any illness. However, plaintiffs apparently request that Safeway implement a system to notify Club Card customers of food recalls sooner. It also apparently requests that Safeway refund its customers the cost of the recalled food purchased. (Note: plaintiffs did not need to sue Safeway to get their money back. The company’s website notes that customers may return recalled products to their local store for a full refund.)
Just two days ago, I noted that some stores were still selling contaminated food after a recall, and that they could lower their liability risks by signing up for free recall notifications. (Here, apparently the plaintiffs purchased their food before it was recalled; at this time I am not aware of any allegation that Safeway sold recalled food.) However, Costco took the next step, and at least two years ago, it started telephoning its members about food recalls for previously-purchased items.
Although no known authority (under California or federal law) requires a store to use loyalty card contact information to notify customers of recalls by phone or email, as the capability to warn customers about recalled food expands, so will customers’ expectations. Why wait until your company is a defendant facing trial in a court of law (or the court of public opinion) to try and minimize the risk of litigation?
Thankfully, the lawsuit against Safeway does not claim that anyone suffered injury, but one in six Americans suffers food poisoning every year, and about 3,000 die from it. The more your company can show it implemented best practices to minimize the risk of personal injury, the less likely a jury (or the public) will find it did something wrong.