2019 year in review: consumer and public health highlights

Media Contacts

The Public Interest Network

WASHINGTON — Advocates for consumer and public health issues made great strides in 2019, while simultaneously defending existing policies that protect Americans from regressive changes by the federal government and unsustainable corporate practices.

“Too many of the federal regulations that keep our water, air and bodies clean and healthy — or that protect consumers and their financial well-being — came under attack in 2019,” said Andre Delattre, the senior vice president and chief operating officer of The Public Interest Network, a transpartisan national advocacy group. “Whether in the Capitol, courts or corporate boardrooms, we have never had more urgency about the need to protect the public interest.”

Despite challenges and setbacks, we have been able to accomplish a great deal this past year. Here is a list of 2019 highlights at the national level from one of The Public Interest Network’s two largest groups, U.S. PIRG:

A beef about beef (raised with routine use of antibiotics)

We’ve been building a network of leading health professional advocates, and urging the country’s biggest restaurant chains to stop serving meat raised with routine antibiotic usage, to preserve the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs. This year, we started the “Superbugs Unplugged” podcast with George Washington University’s Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, and got more major restaurant chains, from Darden (parent of Olive Garden and Longhorn) to Taco Bell to commit to phasing out routine antibiotic use from its beef supply chain. We have started focusing on beef production, and after a commitment last December from McDonald’s to address the issue in its supply chain, we’re optimistic other restaurants will follow suit in 2020.

The CFPB complaint database survives

As of mid-January, 2019, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public database had published nearly 1.2 million consumer complaints, including 257,000 in 2018 alone. That’s why, when the new CFPB leadership threatened to take the database offline, we fought for continued transparency. The CFPB eventually not only maintained the visibility of the database, but also promised to enhance and upgrade the site.

Credit freeze information for a public beset by data breaches

After significant data breaches at Capital One, Marriott, Facebook and others, our consumer protection team provided Americans with timely, user-friendly and accurate advice. Through our outreach and extensive media coverage, we provided the information people needed to freeze their credit reports at all three major credit bureaus to keep their data safe from identity theft.

Inadequate infant sleeper recall exposed

Just because a dangerous baby product has been recalled, that doesn’t mean it’s been removed from local child care centers. After PIRG’s Consumer Watchdog team alerted the public to the threat of an inclined infant sleeper, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission proposed a new rule to virtually end the sale of all models. The rule, if adopted, would help protect millions of infants while they sleep. Then, right before the holidays, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2019 with bipartisan support. It bans inclined sleepers and crib bumpers known to be potentially deadly threats to infants. The Senate will hopefully act early in 2020. 

“Right to Repair” movement takes flight

We testified before federal decision-makers about how manufacturers of cell phones, refrigerators, computers and other products make it hard for consumers to repair the things they own by not sharing the parts and service information required to fix them. We’re working with legislators to draft language for state bills, building coalitions and training supporters. In 2019, more than 20 states filed Right to Repair legislation, and we’re working to get these bills passed.


Click here for 2019 highlights from U.S. PIRG’s state affiliates, and click here to see the 2020 agenda for U.S. PIRG’s state affiliates.