Tracking loyalty card purchases helps stem the spread of foodborne illness


Store loyalty cards are good for way more than just discounts. I want to tell you how using them could actually save your life.

The real benefit of loyalty cards

For years, I’ve had my passive aggressive way of dealing with loyalty programs at supermarkets and drug stores. I never liked that they could track everything I might buy when I use a loyalty card to get some savings. It just seemed too Big Brother-ish for me.

Read more: 11 frugal ways to prepare for an emergency

So when I would fill in an application, I often put in the name of some deceased president as cardholder. It got to the point that I was even doing ‘1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’ as my address, though I’ve since stopped that!

But from now on, I will be telling the truth with my real name and address. Several years ago, I remember reading in USA Today  that public health officials were able to track down a mysterious outbreak of salmonella in five Eastern states by examining shopper club card data from a particular chain. The common denominator that everyone bought and got sick from turned out to be Turkish pine nuts.

For food safety, loyalty cards make it possible for the feds to pinpoint a pattern to determine if everybody’s eating the same chicken, the same tomatoes or whatever it is.

By narrowing things down quickly, lives can be saved. It’s so much faster, saving days or weeks of time tracking down the source, getting the food off the shelves and preventing the spread of disease.

So now I’ll use a real name on the loyalty cards. They’ll know when I paid retail for something — boy, that will be very upsetting!

Read more: 6 ways families with food allergies can save cash

For more money-saving advice, see our Shopping section.


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