June 19, 2018

Congressman Reintroduces Bill to Prohibit “Downer” Livestock

United States Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY) has reintroduced a bill to permanently prohibit all unhealthy livestock from the food supply. Representative Peter King (R-NY) is a cosponsor of the bill. The Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (H.R. 3704) would make the ban on so-called “downer” cattle permanent. The ban would cover all livestock and close a loophole that permits downed calves to be slaughtered and used for food.

Ackerman has said:

“This legislation is essential to ensuring Americans that our nation is doing all it can to safeguard the country‚Äôs food supply. Americans should not have to worry whether the food they eat is from sick or diseased livestock and we cannot allow consumer confidence in the beef industry to ever be compromised again.

Since 1993, there have been 20 confirmed cases of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as Mad Cow Disease, in North America. The latest was in Canada in February 2011 in a dairy cow. Of those cases, at least sixteen have been linked to “downer” cattle.

“Downer” cattle cannot walk because of disease, illness, or injury. These cattle also pose a higher risk of E. coli contamination since they lie in feces and are dragged along the ground to the slaughterhouse. Downer cattle are 50 times more likely to have BSE than healthy cattle.

The Obama administration banned downer cattle in 2009 after a California slaughter plant let them into the food supply. Some of that meat was used in the National School Lunch Program. The USDA can repeat this rule at any time, which is why the bill was reintroduced.

There was a partial and temporary ban on these cows in 2003 after the United States had its first confirmed case of Mad Cow Disease. The ban was only partial because a cow that collapsed after passing inspection could still enter the food supply. In 2006, the Bush administration scaled back BSE testing after a surveillance program of cattle was completed.

Consumer groups and food safety advocates strongly support this ban, and criticized the Bush administration for loosening the restrictions. Advocates also hope this bill will improve the treatment of injured and diseased livestock. Representative Ackerman has been introducing this bill for years, but it was ignored until 2003 when the first BSE case was confirmed in the United States.

Other cosponsors of the bill include Representatives Jim Moran (D-VA), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), George Miller (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Michael Michaud (D-ME) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

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