World Consumer Rights Day

March 21, 2016

The World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated every year on March 15 and is an occasion to celebrate and promote solidarity with respect to the international consumer movement. It commemorates the date in 1962 when the American President John F. Kennedy first defined ‘Consumer Rights’. This day is an opportunity to promote the various fundamental rights of consumers worldwide, to demand that such rights are respected and protected, and to protest the market abuses and social injustices undermining them. Citizen action has been mobilized through this movement. Initiatives such as campaigns, public exhibitions, press conferences, workshops, street events etc. are held all over the world every year in order to celebrate this day.

The theme for the year 2016 was ‘Antibiotic Resistance’. Consumer groups all over the world came together to tackle a possible major public health crisis on an international level, that is, the use of antibiotics in poultry used for human consumption leading to an alleged antibiotic resistance in humans. A campaign was started, called ‘#AntibioticsOffTheMenu’, following the said theme. Consumers International, an independent and authoritative global voice for consumers, called on the hospitality and food & beverage industry to make commitments on a global level to stop serving meat from animals regularly given antibiotics used in human medicines. In March 2014, Consumers International had published recommendations setting out the measures needed to be taken to reduce the use of antibiotics in farming. It has been reported that the overuse of antibiotics is creating highly resistant superbugs. If no action is taken urgently, the world may head into a post-antibiotic era, in which medicines may stop working and common infections and minor injuries may once again start becoming dangerous and may not be contained by the development of new drugs. If drastic measures are not taken to bring down the global consumption of antibiotics, the world may face the return to an era where even the simplest of infections could be harmful. The existing practice of routinely giving farm animals antibiotics is reported to be contributing to this particular threat.

The hospitality and food & beverage industry is believed to be in a position to use its buying power to make a huge difference to the global supply chain. This may be able to affect a change much faster than governments by using their purchasing power to speed up the phasing out of the practice of regularly administering farm animals with antibiotics that are used in human medicine as well. With regard to this, the Legal Metrology Act, 2009, and the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, can be invoked to mandate it for manufacturers of meat products to mention on the packaging of the packaged meat products whether the meat products are derived from animals dosed with antibiotics. This would enable consumers to make a well-informed decision while buying such products, who may choose to stay away from such products by opting for the antibiotic-free ones. Thus, this may play an important role in persuading food companies to make the requisite changes needed to stop this global public health threat and protect the medicines for humans for the future.

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