(WAND) - Few grocery chains are letting their customers know when food recalls are active, according to an organization's survey.
The U.S. PIRG Education Fund involved 26 of the largest grocery store chains in its survey and only heard back from four when it asked them if they have a process is for letting customers know about an active food recall and, if so, what that process is. Those four earned a "C" grade while the rest, which provided no information, failed.
Companies receiving failing grades in the report include, but are not limited to, Hy-Vee, Aldi, Walmart and Meijer. Target and Kroger were among the companies that received "C" grades.
The advocacy group found 85 percent of the store chains they researched did not provide any public description for their recall notification process. Over half (58 percent) had a system to notify customers by phone or email about a recall, but PIRG said sign-up information proved challenging to find.
“Certainly these major grocery stores have a customer loyalty program and by doing that, when you sign up, you typically give over your phone number and maybe your email ,” Illinois PIRG Education Fund Director Abe Scarr told NBC Chicago. "And they are tracking every purchase we make to use that for marketing or product placement. There’s no reason they can’t also use that to notify customers and to also protect our health."
The station reports grocery stores are not required by law to tell customers when recalls happen. One in four food borne illness cases happen far after a recall is announced, according to the station, meaning people likely aren't hearing about recalls quickly enough.
Those illnesses can be deadly, as statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 48 million U.S. citizens become sick from a food borne illness each year. About 128,000 people in that group are hospitalized, while 3,000 end up losing their lives.
Scarr told NBC Chicago he believes change should happen.
“Currently there is no law or administrative guidance saying that grocery stores have to follow X,Y,Z procedures in terms of recalls," told the station. "The Food and Drug Administration does have the authority to require these types of thing(s) but they have not yet. We certainly think they should.”
To keep up-to-date with recall information, Scarr said the public should be signing up for FDA and USDA alerts, which can be done here and here. He added following those organizations on social media or asking customer service in person at local grocery stores can also help people stay updated.
Read the full report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund at this link.