While it might make data conspiracy folks antsy Costco continues to put purchase tracking to good use (sorta, as this Listeria/stone fruit situation may not be that much of a public health risk). According to bustle.com Costco has been directly calling members who purchased recalled Wawona Packing Co. fruit based on a real-time database of purchases.
Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance and food safety at Costco, told HuffPo that the company keeps a log of every single item customers purchase.
We know every item that everybody purchases every day. If there’s an issue with an item — be it ground beef, peaches, socks or tires — we can contact the members that purchased the item, because we have a record of that purchase.
So, seems all that creepy data collecting can be put to good use once in a while. In fact, this isn’t the first time Costco has used its consumer data to help in cases related to foodborne illness: The company teamed up with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and local investigators to help track the source of a salmonella outbreak in 2010.
According to Wilson, Costco even mailed follow-up letters to consumers after the initial phone calls. If only our roommates could be this thorough when warning us the milk has gone bad.
Identifying and connecting with customers that have purchased recalled items is a good strategy. That’s the kind of action that demonstrates the food safety culture of a business. Telling customers how this incident changes Costco’s supplier specifications/verification (at all) and how internal decisions are made are a next step in pulling back the curtain on food safety for the public.