FDA Backs Off Spent Grains Proposal

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revised its proposed regulations on the transaction of spent grains between brewers and farmers.

On Friday, the federal agency finally released its summary of key revisions, writing that human food processors (such as brewers) already in compliance with the FDA’s human food safety requirements “would not need to implement additional preventative controlsÔǪ when supplying a by-product,” such as spent grains.

As Brewbound reported in March, the FDA, in an effort to clarify regulations included in the Food Safety Modernization Act, had sought to impose new rules on brewers that sell their spent grains to farmers. Specifically, the proposed rule would have required brewers to dry and pre-package their spent grains before selling them, creating an added expense that would have made the centuries-old practice ultimately unsustainable for many.

Citing comments submitted in the thousands by beer manufacturers and farmers both decrying the measure, the FDA promised to revise the proposed rule back in April.

The new carve out is for “very small” businesses — those defined as those having less than $2.5 million in annual sales of animal food. For brewers, that means “all but only a few companies,” according to the Brewers Association (BA). Additionally, stricter record keeping will be required of brewers to confirm spent grain storage units are structurally sound and clean, though it shouldn’t impact the bottom line.

In a letter sent to its members, BA director Paul Gatza said one factor in particular played a heavy role in swaying the FDA.

“One argument that resonated is that FDA is attempting to provide a solution to something that isn’t a problem and hasn’t been for the thousands of years brewers have been feeding spent grain to animals,” he wrote to Brewers Association members in an email. “Our campaign to keep unnecessary onerous burdens off brewers is succeeding.”

The BA wasn’t the only group claiming a victory for small brewers, either. The Beer Institute has also issued a statement following the FDA’s revisions.

“We are gratified that the Food and Drug Administration listened to our concerns about their proposed rule,” said Jim McGreevy, the president and CEO of the trade group. “They have made the changes necessary for U.S. brewers to continue to market our spent grains as we always have — safely, with industry-best standards for testing, monitoring and management of the grains from the start of the brewing process.”