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

Blog Post | Public Health

Buying Guide for Meat Raised Without Routine Antibiotics | Anya Vanecek

According to a study carried about by Consumer Reports in 2012, 86% of consumers think that meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local supermarket” and, largely, it is. But you have to know what to look for. Labels can be misleading. Luckily, we can help. 

The following guide, compiled from Consumer Reports, the Environmental Working Group, and PEW Charitable Trusts.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New Poll Reveals Overwhelming Majority of Doctors Concerned About Antibiotics Use on Healthy Food Animals

The overwhelming majority of doctors -- a total of 93 percent -- are concerned about the common meat industry practice of using antibiotics on healthy animals for growth promotion and disease prevention, according to a new poll released today commissioned by Consumer Reports and released by Consumers Union and U.S. PIRG.

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Report | U.S. PIRG and Consumers Union | Public Health

Prescription For Change

Our September 2014 survey of physicians paints a grim picture of the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections. The overwhelming majority of surveyed doctors reported that one or more of their patients had been diagnosed with a presumed or confirmed case of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in the past twelve months. They also expressed concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock production facilities on healthy animals in order to promote growth and prevent disease.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Some Good, Some Bad in Obama Executive Order on Protecting Antibiotics

Today, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order – Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. While the order takes several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it misses the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health.

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

Weak Medicine

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect more than 2 million people per year in the United States, causing more than 23,000 deaths. State governments, the FDA and other branches of the federal government should take steps to protect human health from the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can develop on factory farms.

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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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Mad Cow Highlights Need for Continued Funding of APHIS Program

With the identification of a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in California yesterday, the cuts that the USDA want to make in the APHIS program may not be prudent. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New Poultry Rule Won't Be Putting Safe Chicken on Our Plates

The new USDA poultry inspection rule will not help update an outmoded system. Expanding the poultry inspection pilot program in this manner will only increase the number of foodborne illnesses we see. This is a rule that will protect the poultry industry’s business interest, not the public health and consumer safety of the American public.

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

Bagged Lettuce Recall and Fresh Produce Inspections

The Agriculture Department’s tiny $5 million Microbiological Data Program screens high-risk fresh produce throughout the year for bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. Cutting this program will leave public health officials without a crucial tool used to investigate deadly foodborne illnesses in fresh produce leaving inspections in the hands of produce producers.

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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.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Pulp Fiction

Across the country, pulp and paper mills, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that could be released in the event of an accident or terrorist attack. Releases at these chemical facilities could endanger thousands or even millions of people working and living in nearby communities.

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

Toxic Pollution And Health

Using the latest available TRI data, we examined releases of chemicals known or suspected to cause serious health problems and identified states and localities that are bearing the brunt of this pollution. Specifically, we looked at releases of substances recognized by the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive problems; we also looked at releases of substances suspected by scientists to damage the neurological or respiratory systems.

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Report | Center for American Progress and U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Preventing Toxic Terrorism

The Center for American Progress, with assistance from the National Association of State PIRGs and National Environmental Trust, conducted a survey to identify such facilities and spotlight successful practices that have removed unnecessary chemical dangers from our communities.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

On April 17th Taxpayers Will Pay To Clean Up After Polluters At Toxic Wastes Sites

In 1995, Superfund’s polluter pays fees expired. Since then, the financial burden to clean up toxic waste has shifted entirely from polluters to regular taxpayers. Taxpayers now pay for all Superfund-led toxic cleanups, spending well over $1 billion annually to protect public health from the irresponsible business practices of polluting industries. As valuable public dollars are spent on these cleanups, polluting industries are enjoying a $4 million per day tax break courtesy of the American taxpayer.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Trade negotiations need more public input | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the President has sent U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman out to convince the public that trade deals are good for everyone, not only special interests. In my role as U.S. chair of the TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue, I respond to his latest proposal for a "Public Interest Advisory Committee."

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Preventing the Chobani Mold Problem

The constant stream of food recalls has made one thing clear: more needs to be done to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food. Instead we’re seeing important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety getting blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Celebrating the mandatory toy safety standard—An important provision of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

These days, we can mostly expect that toys sold on store shelves are tested to meet adequately strict safety standards — but that hasn’t always been the case. In 2007, toys with beloved childhood icons like Thomas the Tank Engine and Elmo were recalled because they contained excessive levels of lead. Another toy, when swallowed, created a toxic drug; yet another posed serious hazards due to strong magnets that could tear a child’s stomach lining if two or more pieces were swallowed.

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Blog Post | Public Health

FDA’s BPA Ban: A Small, Late Step in the Right Direction

Last week the FDA announced a ban on the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from infant formula packaging. The rule change should provide some comfort to parents — however, it also showcased the FDA’s sluggish pace of action, and demonstrates to states that they shouldn’t wait for federal action to move forward with public health rules on their own.

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Blog Post | Public Health

European Trade Talks Threaten Our Health and Safety | Nasima Hossain

Talks on the European and U.S. trade agreement start this week and are being hailed by both sides as a way to strengthen their lagging economies. But for consumers, lowered trade barriers too often mean the crippling of vital public health and safety rules.

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