After 16 months of investigating, the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy — part of the House Oversight Committee, the main investigative body in the U.S. House of Representatives — unfurled Wednesday its finding into the popular Seresto flea and tick collars and the Environmental Protection Agency’s role in regulating the collars. The collars work by slowly releasing two pesticides into pets’ fur to ward off fleas and ticks.
Elanco, the collars’ manufacturer, has maintained over the course of Investigate Midwest and USA TODAY’s reporting that the collars are safe. During a hearing Wednesday, Elanco’s president and CEO reiterated that point. (Read Elanco’s full statement here.)
Here are five important takeaways from the subcommittee’s investigation.
Seresto collars have health warnings in other countries but not the U.S. Germany’s label notes the collar poses neurological risks, and Colombia’s label calls it highly toxic. Australia’s label contains the warning: “POISON.” Canada doesn’t even allow the collar to be sold.
Seresto’s first owner, Bayer, declined to update the U.S. label after updating Germany’s to note neurological risks to pets. Bayer owned Seresto’s production before Elanco purchased the company’s animal health division in 2020. The year before, the EPA asked Bayer to update the logo to reflect the one in Germany, which noted the collar’s neurological risks to pets. Bayer said the data didn’t support a label change.
Canada found incident rates involving the collars were high. In 2015, Canadian health officials examined the collars and found Seresto had an incident rate of 36 to 65 incidents per 10,000 collars sold, including three to five “death and major” incidents. The other collars in Canada at the time of the analysis had an incident rate of 0.07 per 10,000 collars sold.
The EPA confirmed Canada’s findings, and then some. After the EPA received Canada’s analysis, it performed its own. Canadian officials had studied 251 pet deaths linked to the collars and determined 84 of them, or 33%, were “probably or possibly” caused by the collar. The EPA found that 113, or 45%, were “probably or possibly” caused by the collar.
Elanco told the EPA its collar has only been linked to 12 probable or possible pet deaths. As of summer 2021, Elanco was aware of more than 2,300 pet deaths that were linked to the Seresto collars. Its own studies found that just 0.51% were “probably or possibly” caused by the collar.
Top image: Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D – Illinois) speaks at the June 15, 2022, hearing. He led the subcommittee’s investigation into Seresto.