Safeguarding Public Health

Special interests have recently launched attacks against public health and safety rules at the federal and state levels. Our Safeguarding Public Health Program advocates for safeguards that make our food, drugs, medical devices and other products safe for us and our families to use.  

Critical Safety Protections At Risk

We’re fortunate to live in a time when we can walk into a store and feel secure that the food, drugs, and other products for sale are safe to use. We’re able to do this thanks to all the public health and safety protections that we have in this country.

However, special interests — such as the chemical industry, pharmaceutical industry, medical devices industry and food industry — have recently launched strategic attacks against all public health and safety rules at the federal and state level. Opponents of consumer safety are engaged in a systematic effort to discredit the very idea that government protections hold any value for our society. Additionally, policy initiatives seeking to dismantle public health protections are constantly being introduced in Congress.

U.S. PIRG is defending consumers against these attacks, so that we can continue to live in a safe and healthy environment. Our Safeguarding Public Health Program advocates for protections and rules that make sure our food, drugs, medical devices and other products are safe to use.

Over the last 40 years, U.S. PIRG has fought for and won numerous public health and safety protections. Most recently, U.S. PIRG successfully campaigned to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) new authority to keep lead out of children’s products and allow the CPSC to establish new tools to inform consumers about dangerous products. We also helped pass the Food Safety Modernization Act, which gave the FDA new authority to act quickly when unsafe food is discovered.

Read our latest series of reports on the importance of public health and safety rules.

As the U.S. and the European Union begin negotiations on a major new trade agreement, we need to ensure that it doesn’t weaken or destroy critical public health rules. Send a message to the President, and ask him to defend our consumer protections.

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

US/EU Trade Negotiations Must Protect Consumers

With negotiators from the United States and European Union meeting for the first round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks this week, U.S. PIRG called on them to resist special interest demands to eliminate important consumer health, safety, and financial protections. 

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Senate panel approves tighter oversight of compounding pharmacies but bill is under fire

Public health and consumer advocacy groups are attacking Senate legislation designed to tighten oversight of specialized pharmacies such as the one at the center of this past fall’s deadly meningitis outbreak, saying it does not adequately address health risks.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Health Care

New Report Documents a Decade of Safety Violations by Compounding Pharmacies

The contaminated drug that caused last fall's fungal meningitis outbreak and killed 55 people is just the tip of the iceberg of an industry-wide problem, according to a new U.S. PIRG report. The meningitis outbreak was simply the latest and deadliest in a long line of errors and risky practices by compounding pharmacies.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Health Care

Prescription for Danger

Compounding pharmacies are increasingly behaving like pharmaceutical companies by producing drugs in bulk, despite the fact that they are not inspected or regulated like the pharmaceutical industry. Due to this lack of oversight, many compounding pharmacies have not adhered to safe manufacturing practices, and shown little regard for consumer safety. According to an analysis of warning letters sent to other compounding pharmacies by the FDA from 2002 to 2012, there is a long history of violations that have in many cases led to unnecessary illness, injury, and even death.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Texas Fertilizer Plant Tragedy Reminder of Need for Better Chemical Safety Rules

Wednesday night’s tragedy at the West Fertilizer plant is a catastrophic reminder of the threat posed by hazardous chemicals used in thousands of facilities across the nation, and the need for us to take every step to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

FDA Protects Public by Releasing Two Long-Delayed Food Safety Rules; Five Critical Rules Still Yet To Be Released

After a one-year delay, the FDA finally released two vital food safety rules that will help protect American consumers from unsafe and contaminated food. The proposed rules will improve the safety of produce and establish better preventative controls and practices in food manufacturing.


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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report. It reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead, cadmium and phthalates, all of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children. The survey also found small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and toy magnets that can cause serious injury.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New Report: American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Foods

Despite government commitments to address the problem, food recalls are on the rise and our food safety systems are broken, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Licorice Lead Recall Showcases The Need For More Food Safety Programs

The recent discovery of high lead levels in licorice by the California Department of Public Health shows the importance of having strong public health and consumer protections that protect us - and in particular children - from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak Highlights Need for Strong Food Safety Programs

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to establish new food safety rules, including new standards for growing fruits and vegetables. Those rules were originally intended to come out at the beginning of 2012, but eight months later we are still waiting for these rules to be released.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

No Silver Lining

This report provides new data about the amount of BPA that could be consumed from eating canned food and drinks available in the U.S. and Canada. For No Silver Lining, we tested the food and beverage contents of 50 cans collected from 19 U.S. states and Ontario, Canada. The report reveals that BPA is a routine contaminant in canned foods. Our study details potential exposure to BPA from not just one can, but from meals prepared with canned food and drink that an ordinary North American person might consume over the course of a day.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Trouble in Toyland

The 2009 Trouble in Toyland report is the 24th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | Green Century Capital Management | Public Health

Seeking Safer Packaging

Seeking Safer Packaging - a project of Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) and As You Sow - sent letters to 20 companies in the packaged food industry to identify the actions the companies are taking to address concerns regarding BPA. Fourteen companies replied. Seeking Safer Packaging grades those companies based entirely on their responses to these letters.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Trouble in Toyland

The 2008 "Trouble in Toyland" report is the 23rd annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. We visited numerous toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety. This year, we focused specifically on toys that contain lead and phthalates in our research.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Total Recall: The Need for CPSC Reform Now

This report explains why Congress needs to enact a strong final law that includes all of these key uncompleted reforms - a new toy standard that requires mandatory safety testing for toys, a ban on toxic phthalates, and whistleblower protections  - while rejecting industry’s eleventh-hour demands to add new and unprecedented limits on state authority to enforce and enact product safety laws.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Red Vines Black Licorice Candy Recalled for High Lead Content | Nasima Hossain

The American Licorice Co. voluntarily recalled 1-pound bags of its Red Vines Black Licorice Twists after the California Department of Public Health found levels of lead in the candy that exceed the state standards.

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Blog Post | Public Health

New Law Turns 4 This Week-- Got The Lead Out of Kids Toys | Nasima Hossain

This week marks the 4th birthday of PIRG-backed legislation that gave the Consumer Product Safety Commission new tools, including the power to get the lead out of kids toys.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Is CDC Hiding Their New Data on Foodborne Illness | Nasima Hossain

Late on the 27th of July, a Friday evening, without any notice to consumer groups and food safety advocates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual report of foodborne illness data for 2011. Why the secrecy?

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Blog Post | Public Health

Finally Buckyballs Magnets Get Their Just Desserts | Nasima Hossain

The Consumer Product Safety Commission filed suit last Wednesday to stop the company that distributes the popular Buckyballs magnets from selling the product. This is a product that consumer advocates have been concerned about for years.

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Blog Post | Public Health

HR 4078 - A Bill that will Shutdown all Public Health and Consumer Safeguards | Nasima Hossain

HR 4078 yesterday passed a floor vote in the House. If passed by Congress this bill will shut down the U.S. regulatory system as we know it. Two other equally hazardous bills are rolled into it, H.R. 4607 and H.R. 3862. Combined, these bills will halt or delay virtually ALL rulemaking and public health protections and do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy or new job opportunities. They would shut down safeguards that Americans take for granted.

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