BA Calls On Brewers that Process Spent Grains to Speak Up

The Brewers Association (BA) is once again calling on its members to steer the organization’s response to the U.S Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) controversial spent grains proposal in its most recently revised form.

Hoping to inform additional comments, the BA is surveying its craft brewery members to find out how many process their spent grains before selling them to farmers for use as animal feed.

The debate surrounding the FDA’s proposed revisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act stemmed initially from the agency’s attempt to enforce new rules on brewers — as processors of food for humans — that participate in the practice. The conflict quelled a bit in September when the agency announced it would no longer seek to impose further regulation on brewers already in compliance with human food safety requirements.

That exemption, however, only extends to brewers that don’t dry or process spent grains before selling or donating them. Brewers that do, still face more “stringent” requirements as outlined in the proposal, the BA wrote in a letter to members at the end of October.

As such, the BA is calling on its members to explain their procedures for handling spent grains.

Pete Johnson, the BA’s programs manager, said he doesn’t think a lot of breweries dry and process their grains, but that the response to the survey, as yet undetermined, will guide how heavy a focus is placed on the subject in subsequent comments.

“Depending on the circumstances of how and why [brewers] are doing that, that’s going to inform our comments on the issue,” he said. “The dry grains situation is something we may have to get more involved with based on the responses we get.”

In its summary of key revisions, the FDA wrote that human food processors — such as brewers — engaging in “further processing a by-product for use as animal food (e.g., drying, pelleting, heat treatment) would require compliance with the preventive controls for animal food rule.”

The rule is open for comment until Friday, December 12.

UPDATE. The FDA provided Brewbound with the following comments:

“Under the Preventive Controls for Animal Food proposed rule, brewers would need to implement current good manufacturing practice regulations (CGMPs) to prevent physical and chemical contamination when holding and distributing wet spent grains. For example, brewers would need to ensure that the spent grains are stored in clean containers that are appropriately labeled and covered to prevent contamination.

We know that human food manufacturers are already subject to CGMPs, so we clarified in the supplemental proposed rule that those providing a by-product as animal food would not need to follow two sets of regulations. If brewers are already following human food CGMPs, they would only need to ensure the spent grains are held in a way that does not introduce physical or chemical hazards, and would not need to implement additional CGMPs unless they further process (for example, dry) the spent grains.

Because further processing a product can introduce hazards like microorganisms, any facility that chooses to further process its by-product (for example, drying spent grains) may need to prepare and implement a food safety plan, including a hazard analysis and preventive controls, as appropriate.

The proposed rule would not require facilities providing a by-product as animal food to acquire a new facility or convert an existing property in order to achieve compliance.

It’s important to note that under the proposed definition of “very small business,” facilities having less than 2.5 million dollars in total annual sales of animal food, adjusted for inflation, would be exempt from the product testing, environmental monitoring and supplier controls requirements found in subpart C of the proposed animal food rule.”