The congressional subcommittee asked Elanc to voluntarily recall the Seresto flea and tick collars, after The story of the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and NOW TODAY thousands of reports of incidents of harm to pets and people associated with the use of the collar.
Seresto, developed by Bayer and now sold by Elanco, is one of the best-selling flea and tick collars in the United States. The collar works by releasing small amounts of pesticides on the animal for months. The pesticide should kill fleas, ticks and other pests, but be safe for cats and dogs.
On Thursday, the representative of Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois), chairman of the subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, sent letters to Elanc, asking the company to withdraw the product and issue a full refund to customers, and Bayer, asking the company to publish information on the toxicity of the product.
Since the necklace was sold in early 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has received more than 75,000 incident reports on the harm to pets and people related to the use of the collar. Incident reports include at least 1,698 pet deaths and 907 people were injured.
“We believe that the actual number of deaths and injuries is much higher because the average consumer would not be able to report pet damage to EPA, an agency that is seemingly unrelated to consumer pet products,” Krishnamoorthi wrote in the letter.
The Seresto necklaces were developed by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, but the company sold the animal health department, which includes the Seresto necklace, to Elanca for $ 7.5 billion in 2020. In 2019, Bayer reported revenue of more than $ 300 million from the sale of the necklace.
In response to a request for comment for this story, Elanco said through spokeswoman Keri McGrath that he was cooperating with the investigation.
In a statement emailed Thursday night, McGrath denied that the collar was responsible for widespread damage to pets, saying incident reports did not necessarily mean the collar was causing the problem, and incident reports accounted for only .3% of the more than 25 million pets that used the collar.
McGrath said the subcommittee’s request was “based on recent misleading media coverage.”
“There is no medical or scientific basis for initiating the recall of Seresto collars and we are disappointed that this is causing confusion and unfounded fear of pet owners trying to protect their pets from fleas and ticks,” said Dr. Tony Rumschlag, senior director for technical affairs at Elanc Consultants, said in a statement.
Bayer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The subcommittee letter also asks companies to publish documents that include collars, including internal communication about collars, communication with federal regulators and all information published in the sale of Seresto to Elanc on pet toxicity and transfer of responsibility for damage to pets.
The EPA regulates necklaces because they contain pesticides.
Seresto has two active pesticide ingredients: imidacloprid and flumethrin. The EPA has not taken any action to inform consumers of any connection to the injury to humans or pets, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting / USA TODAY investigation found.
Karen McCormack, a retired EPA official who has worked both as a scientist and as a communications officer, said collars have the most incidents of any pet pesticide product she has ever seen.
“The EPA seems to be turning a blind eye to this problem, and after seven years of increasing incidents, they are telling the public to continue to monitor the situation,” she said. “But I think this is a significant problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.”
The Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy reports to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is the main oversight committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The committee has “broad powers” to investigate “any matter” at “any time” under House Rule X, the letter said.
Following the March 2 story, Amazon, which received numerous complaints of pet-related damage to the necklaces, said it through a spokeswoman it is a “review” of the product.
This story is a collaboration of the US TODAY and the Midwest for investigative journalism. The Center is an independent, non-profit newsroom covering agribusiness, Big Ag and related issues. USA TODAY funds a scholarship at the Center for Extended Agribusiness Coverage and Its Impact on Communities.