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

Not-so-secret-Santas in Congress Using Spending Bill To Roll Back Health, Safety, Wallet Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

With spending authorization for the federal government set to end on December 11, Congressional leaders are working with powerful special interests on their not-so-Secret-Santa lists to use spending bills as vehicles to gut health, safety and wallet protections popular with the general public but not with Wall Street or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They know they cannot win a fair fight. So they’re loading up the must-pass funding bill with so-called “riders,” which are unrelated policies that couldn’t get passed on their own. Everything we fought for in Wall Street reform, including the CFPB, is on the chopping block. So are many other PIRG health, safety, wallet and democracy priorities.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Medical Professionals Call for Action to Save Antibiotics

Nearly six hundred medical and health care professionals from across the nation are calling on major restaurant chains to set strong antibiotics policies that protect public health.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

America is "getting smart" about antibiotic resistance | Anya Vanecek

Increasingly, we agree on this: antibiotic resistance is a major and growing threat to human and animal health, and we must do something to stop it. 

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Blog Post | Public Health

Saving your bacon: takeaways from the W.H.O. announcement on the dangers of processed meat | Anna Low-Beer

When the World Health Organization announced last week that processed meat is linked to cancer, the world went wild. But we can all agree: we have the right to know about these dangers. So what about the thousands of dangerous invisible chemicals that saturate our daily products? Surely, we have the right to know about them too.

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Media Hit | Public Health

October Saw Two Important Actions to Reduce the Overuse of Antibiotics on Livestock

October was a big month: a new policy in California restricts antibiotic overuse on livestock, and Subway announced that it will phase out the sale of meat raised with antibiotics.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Stop Using Pink Slime in School Lunches

Parents have a right to know what is in their children’s school lunches. The USDA should ensure that only high quality, nutritious meat is used for the school lunch program.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Food Inspections: Are They Being Tackled Effectively to Combat Food-Borne Pathogens?

It is time that the USDA and the FDA modernize their food safety procedures to better protect us from the real hazards in food: deadly pathogens and microbial contaminants in our meats and fresh produce.

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Media Hit | Public Health

Asbury Park Press: Pallone calls for regulation of lead, arsenic in apple juices

Pallone joined with Karina Wilkinson of the Food & Water Watch, Gideon Weissman of the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, Chuck Bell from Consumers Union and concerned New Jersey parents to demand action to prevent high toxin levels in drinks, and now food, primarily consumed by children.

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

Listeria Contaminated Eggs Yanked From 34 States

Friday’s announcement of widespread listeria contamination in eggs produced in Minnesota underscores the need for food inspections to happen at more regular intervals.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Popular Magnets Still Pose Danger if Swallowed

Small, but powerful magnets used in magnetic building toys and magnetic jewelry cause serious injury and death from swallowing. The Consumer Product Safety Commission should revisit this hazard and reconsider asking manufacturers to put prominent and very visible warnings labels on all products both for children and adults that contain these magnets.

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Report | VPIRG | Public Health

Hidden Hazards

Polymer clays are a form of modeling clay that have become popular in recent years among children, adolescents and adult craftspeople. Unfortunately, these clays contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) mixed with phthalate plasticizers. While the phthalate plasticizers make the clay soft and workable, they are also associated with potential health risks. Phthalates as a class of chemicals have been implicated in birth defects, reproductive problems, nerve system damage and other negative health effects.

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

Antibiotic Resistance Marker Genes in Genetically Engineered Foods

Many genetically engineered crops on the market currently contain antibiotic resistance marker genes because of the imprecision of the gene insertion process. Scientists use these genes to determine whether a gene has inserted itself into a target organism. As a result of incorporating these antibiotic resistance genes, these crops threaten the already growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which the world medical community acknowledges as a serious public health concern.

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

Raising Risk 2001

The science of genetic engineering, particularly as applied to agriculture, is radical and new. Contrary to popular belief, the technology is not very precise. As a result, genetic engineering raises a host of ecological and human health concerns that have not been adequately addressed. Despite this, on tens of thousands of acres across the United States, although the exact amount is not publicly available, experiments with genetically engineered crops are being conducted in the open environment with little oversight and public notification.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Weird Science 2000

Genetic engineering permits scientists to manipulate genetic materials in ways that were once inconceivable. But the technology relies on methods that result in haphazard insertion of genetic elements into a plant's genetic code. This in turn may lead to disruption of complex gene interactions and unintended, potentially catastrophic results. It is a technology that has the power to transform food and the food supply in ways not possible with traditional breeding. Genetic engineering is very different, very powerful and worth a great deal of caution.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Lessons From Abroad | Anya Vanecek

Antibiotic resistance is now a global problem, and we're not helping.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Livestock, Antibiotics, and Pretend Play | Steve Blackledge

The industry is pretending that antibiotics use on factory farms today is healthy and safe, but their arguments muddy the truth. 

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Blog Post | Public Health

Back to School: Asbestos in Crayons | Anna Low-Beer

This back to school season, be sure that your children's school supplies and toys are safe. A new Environmental Working Group report shows that some popular crayon brands contain asbestos fibers. Read on to see which ones and what else you need to know about asbestos regulation.

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Blog Post | Public Health

A Soggy Statement from Subway | Anya Vanecek

Subway recently made a statement about their antibiotics policy. Here's where they fall short.

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Blog Post | Public Health

A Fresh Celebration | Anya Vanecek

How do you get a major chain like Subway to celebrate public health? You keep the issue fresh in their minds.

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