Democrats in Congress warned Elanco CEO Jeff Simmons on Wednesday that his company’s product, the Seresto flea and tick collar, which has been linked to at least 98,000 adverse reaction incidents and more than 2,000 pet deaths in complaints to the federal government, might be banned if the company doesn’t acknowledge a problem. The stark warning comes after Gizmodo published consumer complaints filed with the FTC about severe problems pet owners encountered after buying the collars or counterfeit versions, including horror stories of dogs even dying.
“I respectfully request Elanco to voluntarily recall these collars at this time, pending this further investigation,” said Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois. Elanco has not recalled the collars.
The warning about potentially pulling Seresto collars from the market was made at a hearing of the House Economic and Consumer Policy subcommittee— a hearing available in its entirety on YouTube, and chaired by Krishnamoorthi.
Krishnamoorthi is concerned that the EPA has for too long ignored consumer reports of deaths from dog owners who said they purchased the collar, despite internal emails at the agency showing serious concern about the sheer volume of adverse reactions—reactions that first came to light thanks to a shocking report from USA Today in March of 2021.
“It is unacceptable that the EPA has been aware of the Seresto collar’s safety concerns for years and has continued to allow Americans to unknowingly put their pets in danger by using a product they have been led to believe is safe,” Krishnamoorth said in a statement before the hearing.
Elanco CEO Jeff Simmons testified via Zoom, with an opening statement about how much his company loves animals.
“Our company and our people are dedicated to advancing the health of animals,” Simmons said.
Simmons noted that the EPA and more than 80 regulatory bodies around the world have approved Seresto. And then Simmons got to the heart of the company’s defense.
“Adverse event reports are not intended to be and, in fact, are absolutely not, proof of causation,” Simmons said. “Reports require further investigation and analysis to determine cause.”
Simmons went on to say that his research team “has not identified a single death caused by the active ingredients in the collar.”
But Rep. Krishnamoorthi questioned how it can be that Simmons insists there’s no evidence of a link between the collars and pet deaths when Canada found a link and banned the collars from being sold in the country.
“Originally, you said there’s no scientific evidence... no evidence of a causal link. This is clearly evidence,” Krishnamoorthi said, pointing to a chart showing the number of incidents investigated by Canadian regulators.
“It was so compelling that the Canadian equivalent of the EPA never allowed for Seresto collars to be sold in Canada,” Krishnamoorthi continued.
Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from Southern California who also sits on the subcommittee, asked Simmons about the fact that other countries like Australia and Colombia have large warnings on the packaging for Seresto collars and “label them as poison.” Porter pointed out that the warning label in the U.S. mentions possible side effects like hair loss and lesions, but doesn’t mention death.
“Congresswoman, we do not believe the scientific data warrants a label change,” Simmons responded.
Rep. Porter also noted that the EPA encouraged Elanco as well as the previous owner of Seresto, Bayer, to update the warning label. But Simmons contested Porter’s assertion, saying the EPA has never formally asked for a change to the warning label.
“My concern here is that Seresto is standing in the way of allowing the EPA to gather those necessary data and make that decision [about the safety of Elanco products],” Rep. Porter said. “I encourage Elanco to work with the EPA to get this data and if they won’t, then Seresto will have to come off the market.”
Republicans tried to stop the hearing at their first opportunity, putting forward a motion to adjourn and saying that the hearing wasn’t a priority for the American people. What’s a bigger priority, according to the Republicans? Fentanyl addiction, which one Congressman blamed on drugs flowing in from Mexico over the border.
The Republicans also presented what’s called a “minority witness” in Carrie Sheffield, from a right-wing group called Independent Women’s Voice, who whined about how people on the subcommittee wants to defund the police in an irrelevant tirade.
But distractions aside, Democrats appea determined to make sure someone gets to the bottom of what’s happening with these Seresto collars and the dogs that allegedly died using them.
“Out of more than 30 million collars sold in the United States, for Elanco to say that 12 pets may have possibly or probably died because of the collar—but not because of any of its active ingredients—does not seem plausible in the least,” Krishnamoorthi said.
Krishnamoorthi ended the hearing by calling on the EPA to conduct a new investigation to see what’s going on and even asked Elanco to voluntarily recall the collars.
“So here we are, and we have to make some decisions. And so because of the tremendous number of pet incidents, the tremendous number of deaths, even when factoring in sales, I sadly have no choice but to recommend that the EPA commence a notice of intent to cancel proceedings,” Krishnamoorthi said.