Some chains—such as Costco—have been using their CRM databases to alert customers to recalls for years. But the CDC hadn't done so, at least not in an organized fashion. Now they are, according to this Associated Press story. "Through interviews and questionnaires, investigators suspected some kind of Italian meat was the culprit, but people couldn't remember what brand they bought, CDC epidemiologist Casey Barton Behravesh said," according to the AP story. "So the CDC asked supermarkets for certain buying information on seven victims in Washington state, focusing on suspect products rather than everything the customers had bought, Behravesh said. 'We didn't care about the brand of toilet paper people were buying,' she said."
The Centers For Disease Control have to tackle some wonderfully difficult detective assignments, including a recent case where they had to find out why people were getting sick from salami. (It turned out to be some pepper used as a seasoning.) The government operation is now formally tapping into loyalty card CRM databases from retail chains for help.