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

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

Total Food Recall

This report is a snapshot look, from January 2011 to September 2012, at recalls that were directly linked to identified incidents of foodborne illness.  Failures in the rules and processes that protect our food supply have led to numerous high-volume recalls over the past two years that left many Americans sickened and at least 37 dead.  And the economic costs of the illnesses caused by food products recalled over the past 21 months come to over $225 million.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Poultry Industry And USDA Wants to Put Dangerous Chicken on Your Plates | Nasima Hossain

The new USDA proposed poultry inspection rule is being hailed as a common sense, cost-saving rule by OIRA and the poultry industry. It will purportedly streamline antiquated poultry inspection requirements, allowing companies to choose a more flexible approach, with five-year savings apparently in excess of $1 billion.

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

Parents Beware - Many Toys Still Toxic, Hazardous

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group announced in its 25th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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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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