The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to transfer its oversight of pet pesticide products to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) following criticism for its handling of a popular flea and tick collar linked to pet injuries and deaths.
EPA scientists have been questioning the agency’s ability to regulate pet products for years, and the transfer to the FDA is seen as a “potential long-term solution,” according to Jake Li, EPA’s deputy assistant administrator for pesticide programs. The EPA has been conducting a formal review of the collar, called Seresto, for nearly two years and expects to finalize the updated science assessment “in the next few months.” The FDA has helped with the assessment, lending staff and a framework to evaluate post-market incident data.
Under the current setup, the EPA regulates pet pesticide products that are “not systemic,” while the FDA regulates “systemic” pet pesticide products. However, many topical flea and tick treatments, including spot-on treatments and collars, have been found to enter a pet’s bloodstream, raising questions about the EPA’s product approval process. The agencies said in a recent whitepaper that transferring regulation to the FDA would better protect animal health and safety and improve clarity for pet owners.
The proposal is open for a 60-day public comment period until April 24, and the EPA and FDA are holding a joint virtual public meeting on March 22 to discuss the changes. The EPA and FDA are also briefing congressional committees on the proposal and working with Congress on potential solutions.
Environmental groups are expressing concern that the EPA is allowing harm to continue by failing to take action on products like Seresto. The EPA had been aware since at least 2015 of a high number of incidents related to the collar, but did not make the public aware of any risks. The EPA’s inspector general has launched a review into the agency’s handling of incident reports associated with the product.
Seresto is not the only product connected to major concerns about pet and human safety. In October 2022, the EPA announced it would ban flea and tick collars containing the chemical tetrachlorvinphos, which has been linked to neurological damage in children. EPA staff have also raised concerns about pet products that contain fipronil, a chemical used in popular spot-on treatment Frontline Plus, which has been the subject of more than 5,000 human health incident reports.
The proposal to transfer pet-pesticide product regulation to the FDA is seen as the beginning of a long process, but a modernized approach that better aligns with each agency’s expertise will better protect animal health and safety and improve clarity for pet owners.
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