Making Our Roads Safer

In February we called on automakers to offer the latest crash-prevention technology as standard equipment on all cars. We felt so strongly that we also decided to award bonus points—and thus give a higher score in our Ratings—to vehicles that include forward-collision warning or automatic emergency braking (AEB) as part of the base sticker price. And manufacturers are starting to hear that message.

In March the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced a commitment by 20 automakers—representing more than 99 percent of the U.S. market—to make AEB a standard feature on the majority of new cars by 2022. Excluded right now are heavy-duty trucks (which will be folded into the program later) and some high-performance sports cars.

“By proactively making emergency braking systems standard equipment, these 20 automakers will help prevent thousands of crashes and save lives,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Consumer Reports has agreed to help monitor progress toward the 2022 target.

“We look forward to working with NHTSA and IIHS to help put this plan into action and hold automakers accountable,” says Jake Fisher, our director of auto testing.

Within days of the announcement, Toyota said that AEB would be standard on the vast majority of its vehicles by 2017, ahead of the target year. We urge other automakers to swiftly roll out these systems earlier than 2022, and we support NHTSA’s intention to set mandatory rules if they don’t.

Check our report Cars With Advanced Safety Systems to see which cars already have the technology. You can search by make and model, and see whether AEB is standard or optional equipment.

Taking Drugs off the Menu

About half of the antibiotics produced globally are used to promote growth and prevent (rather than treat) disease in food animals. As we’ve reported in our coverage of this important issue, such overuse can cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria to spread to people through air, soil, water, manure, and contaminated meat.

That’s why Consumers International, a federation of advocacy groups (including Consumer Reports), is urging KFC, McDonald’s, and Subway to make a commitment to stop serving meat from animals raised on antibiotics used in human medicine.

With a total of 100,000 locations around the world, those chains can help clean up the world’s food supply faster than governments alone. Go to consumersinternational.org to follow the campaign.

A Safer Chicken in Every Pot

Chicken breasts are America’s most popular main dish, but they’re also a leading cause of food poisoning. In 2014 Consumer Reports revealed that 97 percent of chicken breasts we tested harbored bacteria that can make you sick. At that time, the Department of Agriculture had standards to guard against bacteria in whole chickens but not for chicken parts.

Now, for the first time, the government has set limits for breasts, legs, and wings: No more than about 15 percent of samples from any producer can be contaminated with salmonella, and no more than about 8 percent can test positive for campylobacter. The USDA also set percentages for ground chicken and turkey.

According to the agency, the adoption of these rules will prevent 50,000 of the almost 2 million cases of foodborne salmonella and campylobacter that occur each year.

Our food-safety experts helped lay the groundwork for the new limits. “The USDA incorporated several of our specific concerns, including increasing the required sampling frequency and publishing the results from companies submitting test data,” says Michael Hansen, Ph.D., senior scientist at Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

But there’s more work to do. “We’d like to see the salmonella standard drop,” Hansen says. “Also, the USDA now needs to set salmonella and campylobacter limits for necks, giblets, and other raw chicken parts.”

To stay updated, go to ConsumersUnion.org/topic/food, where you can read about our ongoing food-safety efforts.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the June 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.