Safeway and Campbell’s food safety fail

Recently my son had “chains” put on his braces and apparently that leaves your mouth as sore as you think it might. I promised to make homemade pretzels for dinner – soft tender, warm carbs drenched in butter are a temporary fix for many things. But pretzels take a couple of hours to make and while I had started the dough before we left for the orthodontist we were still into the second rise when hunger hit.

“Could I have some SpagettiOs?” he asked.

A perfect solution. This was Victor’s comfort food. Because of a severe oral aversion he didn’t eat solid food until he was over three-years old and even then it was things like SpagettiOs that required minimal chewing. Victor was born at 26 weeks and oral aversions are more common in premature infants, but in addition he had projectile vomiting. For 18 months. About 30 minutes after drinking formula (and later Pediasure) the liquid would shoot up his nose into his oxygen tubing and I’d have to whip off the tubing, suction his nose, and then quickly get clean tubing back in his nose. All that traumatic manipulation multiple times a day had a lasting impact. After years of occupational therapy SpagettiOs became a trusted source of lunch and dinner and he probably ate them weekly for several years.

Victor was two bites into the warm, salty, tomato comfort when he pulled something out of his mouth and said, ‘What’s this?”

It was a piece of red plastic. That he almost swallowed.


So I took to Twitter to ask what to do  as my tweeps have never led me astray. Several said I should contact the company and then someone shared a link about a recall. Strips of red plastic were in SpaghettiOs Original with a date of Feb 22, 2017, and a UPC code of 51000 22432. Which is exactly what we had. One article mentioned the plastic was “food grade,” I guess so people wouldn’t worry if they had fed their child SpagettiOs from an affected can. I’m not sure the term “food grade plastic” is optimal as it made me feel like the Campbell Soup Company was putting the quality of its food on par with plastic to make it seem like it was no big deal that children might have choked on the plastic.

Knowing about a recall after your child had put plastic in his mouth and chewed it and was just about to swallow when he felt something wasn’t quite right is not exactly desirable. (Neither is plastic in the food, by the way).

I’m pretty current on the news, but I don’t remember the recall. Even if I had seen one of the short posts on it I might not have even remembered that I bought SpagettiOs recently, I mean who knows what lives in the back corner of my pantry! I buy cans of stuff all the time and forget about them hoping that on those days when I need a particular something I will find it in my cupboard of requirements.

But you know who knows what I bought? Safeway. I know they know because I get coupons all the time based on their data base of what I have purchased. So they are totally fine using the wealth of purchasing data I generate to try and influence me to buy certain products, but not to tell me when there is a safety issue with a product I bought at their store? Nice.


I have to believe that it would take a data analyst minimal time at all to run a search of who purchased SpaegttiOs at Safeway within the timeframe that matches the recalled product.

Campbells must know know when these cans shipped and to which stores. How hard would it have been for Campbells to send the potential dates when customers could have bought the cans to Safeway (and every other store) and then for Safeway et. al. to check their data base and find out which customers purchased cans during that time and then send a friendly e-mail an automated call (after all, we all use our phone number to sign in at the store so I know they know it!).

Obviously the strategy only catches people who have the loyalty card (or whatever they call those things that give you the discounts in exchange for collecting your shopping demographics), but I bet that’s a significant percentage. A few signs in the stores about recalls would help too.

I returned the two cans from the recall, but Victor is done with SpagettiOs.

And me, well, I’m pretty angry that my son almost choked on plastic and that with minimal effort Campbells and Safeway could have sent me an e-mail advising me to check for recalled product. That’s actually the kind of service that gets you customer loyalty.




Join the Conversation


  1. Did you ask Safeway what their procedure is when this happens? They collect so much data, including email addresses, you’re right, they should be able to contact customers!

    Is there an app for that?

  2. What a horrible experience! I’m glad Victor is OK. I’m commenting because I remember a Facebook conversation about a year ago involving a friend who did in fact receive just such a notice from a grocery store — “we know you purchased X product and there’s been a recall.” He was creeped out at the time by the Big Brother aspect of it all, but it seemed like a good thing to me. And, as it turns out, Safeway has been sued for failing to do just that: — they claim it’s “cost-prohibitive,” but that’s BS. I’m certain it’s cheaper than paying damages to a grieving family would be. 😛

  3. I am a Kroger shopper here in the Dallas, TX area and I will tell you that their data mining is useful for this. I have been called on the telephone at least 3 times when there has been a recall on something I purchased. I’m not a fan of data mining on the whole but it really works for this.

    It’s amazing that Safeway hasn’t gotten on this.

  4. Kroger notified me of a recall simply by printing a large warning on all my receipts for a couple of weeks. It may not be timely but it was something and it definitely was not cost prohibitive.

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