This story was originally published by Investigate Midwest.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general is reviewing the agency’s handling of the tens of thousands of reported incidents of harm linked to the Seresto flea-and-tick collar, the agency announced May 18.
The EPA Office of Inspector General said it plans to determine whether the agency’s response “provides assurance that the collars can still be used without posing unreasonable adverse effects to human health and the environment” and whether the EPA adhered to pesticide registration requirements in approving the popular Seresto collar, the office said in a letter to Michal Freedhoff, the assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
Since Seresto was approved for use in 2012, the collar has been the subject of at least 86,000 incident reports, including more than 2,300 reports involving pet deaths.
Keri McGrath Happe, the spokeswoman for the collars’ manufacturer, Elanco Animal Health, said the collar is safe.
“Elanco unequivocally continues to stand behind the safety profile of Seresto as a proven solution to help protect dogs and cats from fleas and ticks,” she said. “We support all agency review processes.”
In March 2021, an Investigate Midwest and USA TODAY investigation revealed that the productat that time was subject to more than 75,000 incidents associated with Seresto – the most of any product in EPA history.
Following that story, a congressional subcommittee launched an investigation into the collars and asked Elanco to temporarily recall the collars, which are the company’s top-selling product. Elanco has declined.
The EPA — in response to a petition from the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity — has opened an official review of the product. The EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs is also under an internal review after whistleblower complaints of internal corruption.
Earlier this year, an Investigate Midwest/USA TODAY investigation found that, for years, agency officials have raised concerns that the EPA’s process for reviewing incidents is flawed and has resulted in the use of products that pose dangers to pets and humans. EPA scientists said they were told to keep their concerns off email. The agency also said it has no process for reviewing incidents.
Elanco has continued to defend the collar. The company said the rate of complaints has declined since the product was put on the market in 2012. Elanco — which bought the entire Bayer Animal Health unit, including Seresto, from the German pharmaceutical giant in 2020 for $7.6 billion — has said its own extensive studies into the product show that the incidents of harm reported by pet owners are likely related to other factors and not the collar itself.
Elanco did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The EPA also did not respond immediately.
It is not clear when the inspector general plans to conclude its evaluation. The office said it is following a directive from top EPA management to ensure the safe use of chemicals.
Investigate Midwest is a nonprofit, online newsroom offering investigative and enterprise coverage of agribusiness, Big Ag and related issues through data analysis, visualizations, in-depth reports and interactive web tools.
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