Nigeria today joins the international community to celebrate World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), an annual event devoted to the promotion of consumer rights and education.
Consumer right groups and other stakeholders across the country are expected to mark the day with various events aimed at creating awareness about consumer rights in relation to the 2016 declared theme of the celebration.
According to the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), “The World Consumer Rights Day is an annual occasion for promoting the basic rights of all consumers, for demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and for protesting the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them. It marks the date in 1962 when the former United States President, John F. Kennedy, moved the Consumer Bill of Rights before the US Congress.”
The World Consumer Rights Day was first observed on 15 March 1983, and has since become an important occasion for mobilising citizen action.
According to Consumer International, the world federation of consumer groups, the theme for this year’s WCRD is “Antibiotics off the menu” and it reflects the concern of the group about the growing resistance of people to antibiotics which has been largely blamed on the overuse of antibiotics in the agricultural sector. Antibiotics are substances used to kill microorganisms or to stop them from growing in the human body but which is now being used extensively in the agriculture sector in many countries.
Over 50 per cent of the antibiotics manufactured globally are said to be used in the agriculture sector and the human food chain industry from where it enters the human body thus causing resistance to the drugs when used as medication for ailments.
Consumer International, which raised this concern, said the drugs are used in agriculture to promote faster growth and to prevent, rather than treat diseases in animals reared for food.
It has been predicted that the use of antibiotics in agriculture would increase by two thirds by the year 2030 if nothing is done to curb the trend, Consumer International said in a statement. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has equally warned that the world was heading for a post-antibiotic era in which important medicines would stop working thereby increasing the chances of people dying from common infections and minor injuries once again.
Researchers have said that the death rate attributed to antibiotic resistance could rise to over 10 million by 2050 with Asia and Africa recording the heaviest death toll.
Consumer advocates have thus urged consumers to put pressure on food companies to make the changes that are needed to stop this threat to global public health. “We believe that global restaurant chains can affect change faster than governments alone by using their purchasing power to hasten the phasing out of the practice of routinely administering farm animals with antibiotics used in human medicine,” Consumer International said in a statement.
Leading experts have also warned of a looming global superbug crisis that would be triggered by the heavy use of antibiotics in the agricultural industry across the world. Even though there are views that the global crisis is inevitable, consumer advocates believe the danger could be averted if adequate awareness is created and people are willing to fight the scourge.