Odwalla Issues Recall of Chocolate Protein Drink, Some Consumers Alerted Thanks to Rewards Cards

Some retailers such as Wegmans (shown) use contact and purchase history information collected from shopper reward cards to alert customers about product recalls.

A recall has been issued for Odwalla Chocolate Protein Monster 12- and 32-ounce beverages with an “enjoy by” date prior to and including May 23, 2012, after four consumers with peanut allergies who consumed the beverage reported reactions. While food recalls seem to be increasingly common, what surprised us was the way we found out. A friend told us she received a phone call from the grocery store where the product was purchased — in this case, a Giant Eagle supermarket in Ohio — because her rewards-card history indicated she purchased the drink.

Those who have peanut or tree nut allergies are advised not to consume Odwalla Chocolate Protein Monster beverages with the following UPC Codes: 14054 13509 (12-ounce bottles), 14054 13504 (32-ounce bottles) and 0 14054 26659 6 (from the variety pack of 10, available at Costco). Odwalla is asking buyers to return the products to place of purchase for refunds. Those with questions can contact Odwalla at (800) 639-2552.

Odwalla is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify the cause of the reactions since the beverage itself doesn’t contain nut ingredients and the production facility where it was made doesn’t handle peanuts or tree nuts. Odwalla alerted retailers to the recall, and some groceries used rewards-card data to notify consumers. Giant Eagle isn’t the only supermarket chain that follows this practice; others include Harris Teeter, Kroger and Costco. Wegmans supermarkets, for example, have issued automated phone calls to customers who have purchased recalled items since November 2007.

Though Wegmans usually contacts shoppers by phone, in the rare case of large, ongoing recalls — such as the case with the 2009 salmonella outbreak in peanut and peanut butter products — the grocer sent out emails to reach customers who may not have had phone numbers on file with their Shoppers Club Cards. Consumers can opt out of receiving the call; however, a Wegmans spokesperson says customer feedback is most often a “thank you.”

Some consumers say that grocery stores are obligated to let card-carrying customers know about a recalled product. A class action suit was filed against Safeway last year by two consumers and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, after the customers with Safeway Club cards complained that they were not notified about salmonella-tainted items during the 2009 outbreak.

When there’s a product recall, would you like to be alerted through your shopper reward card? Do you think retailers should be obligated to notify customers if recall information is available to them?

Photo credit: Courtesy Wegmans