WASHINGTON – US Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) has reintroduced a bill that would permanently ban downer animals from the food chain and requires that such animals be humanely euthanized.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is the lead co-sponsor of the bill which has 10 additional co-sponsors. The measure has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture.

The Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (HR 3704) would apply to all livestock and would also ban the slaughter of downed calves. The USDA can change or repeal current rules at any time. Ackerman's measure would make the ban permanent.

Downer cattle are banned from the food chain as a precaution against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). At least 16 of the 20 confirmed cases of BSE in North America since 1993 have involved downer cattle, Ackerman said in a news release from his office. The largest meat recall in US history occurred in 2008 after a California-based meat processor allowed downed animals into the food supply. The USDA banned downed animals from the food supply in 2009.