Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Settlement could be near in Safeway loyalty card food safety case

Settlement negotiations could be nearing conclusion in a federal civil case that pits consumers against Safeway Inc. in a quest for increased communication from the retailer during food recalls.

The case seeks an order forcing Safeway to use loyalty card data to notify customers about recalls of food they have purchased. If the consumers prevail, all retailers could be subject to such requirements.

Safeway-loyalty-cardTwo consumers, represented in part by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), filed the suit in March 2011. They seek class action status for other similar consumers.

Maia Kats, an attorney with CSPI said Jan. 7 that a new information regarding the settlement talks could be posted in the docket in a “couple of weeks.”

Safeway and CSPI filed a joint notice of pending settlement Nov. 4, 2015. A month later they notified U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg that they would file a status update by Jan. 4. As of midday Jan. 7, the document had not been filed.

The two original named plaintiffs in the case held Safeway loyalty cards when they bought peanut butter products and eggs from the retailer that were later recalled because of potential pathogen contamination.

The woman who bought eggs was later replaced with a different plaintiff who bought fresh mangoes, yellow onions and romaine lettuce that were later recalled because of pathogen contamination.

Safeway did not use purchase history and contact information from its loyalty card database to notify the women of the recalls. The civil complaint contends the retailer was negligent and failed to meet its duty of responsibility after the point of sale.

Safeway contends in court documents that it doesn’t have a legal obligation to notify individual customers about recalls. The Pleasanton, Calif.-based retailer contends such notifications are cost prohibitive.

Judge Seeborg already nixed Safeway’s argument, saying in an order that “numerous California cases” have recognized that a seller’s duties can extend beyond the point of sale.

The CSPI complaint says the notifications won’t cost the retailer anything because its contracts state that its suppliers must bear all recall costs. The amended complaint also states Safeway’s competitors already provide such notice to customers.

“Ralphs, owned by Kroger, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Giant Food Supermarkets, Harris Teeter Food Markets, Wegmans Food Markets and ShopRite Supermarkets, among others all routinely issue food safety alerts directly to customers using a variety of methods,” according to the complaint.

© Food Safety News