FDA to Revise Spent Grain Proposal

After being flooded with more than 2,000 comments regarding its proposal to tighten regulation of the transaction of spent grain between brewers and farmers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday said it plans revise its original plan.

The agency said it will release an amended version of the proposal this summer.

Brewers, who for years have donated or sold their spent grain to farmers to use as animal feed, reacted with outrage to the newly proposed regulation, part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, saying it would turn an ages-old practice into a new, heavy burden. Under the currently proposed terms, brewers say, they would either be required to dry and package spent grain before sending it off as animal feed or to discard it entirely, leaving it to sit dormant in landfills, should the proposal spiral into rule.

Brewers Association director Paul Gatza relayed the news about the impending reconsideration to craft brewers on an industry message board, telling them that the agency had clarified its position during a conference call with BA executives.

The FDA said that the intent of the proposal was not to see spent grain go to landfills or create new “onerous” regulation on the beer industry, Gatza wrote to the brewers. The “vast majority of brewers” would not be required to comply with any new procedures until 2017 or 2018, he added.

The proposal has drawn more than the ire of brewers and farmers, sparking interest on Capitol Hill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) urged the FDA to reconsider its rules during a recent hearing on the proposal.

“I have to tell you that I think the FDA’s approach is a perfect example of a solution in search of a problem,” she said. “This practice has been going on for literally centuries where brewers have donated or sold, often for very little money, their spent grains to farmers.”

Collins, with Independent Sen. Angus King (ME), also issued a letter to FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg expressing their concerns surrounding the proposal.

“We recognize the importance of food safety, but ask that the agency consider the economic effect of its effort to include so-called ‘spent grains’ produced by brewers within the scope of the rule,” they wrote. “The cost of compliance with the rule would effectively prohibit brewers from providing spent grains to farmers for animal feed.”

Dr. Hamburg, during the hearing, assured Sen. Collins that she has heard the concerns over the proposal.

“We actually do think that this is an arena where there are sensible, reasonable solutions and we’re committed to working towards those and we think that this issue can be effectively addressed when we put forward a re-proposal this summer,” she said.

The FDA provided the following statement to Brewbound:

“On October 29, 2013, the FDA proposed a rule on current good manufacturing practice, hazard analysis, and risk-based preventive controls for food for animals as part of its Food Safety Modernization Act rule-making initiatives. We know there are concerns about the impact of this proposed rule on the brewing community, and we further understand that brewers who are small businesses also have questions about how the proposed rule might affect them.

We anticipated some of these issues when we requested comment on the proposed rule and are already reviewing the extensive input received from brewers and others. We recognize this is an area that should be addressed and will reach out to those concerned. When the agency proposes revised language for this rule later this summer, we will include more on this issue and welcome comments.

We are working to develop regulations that are responsive to the concerns expressed, practical for businesses, and that also help ensure that food for animals is safe and will not cause injury to animals or humans.”

Update: Chris Thorne, the director of communication at the Beer Institute issued the following statement:
“The FDA has asked the Beer Institute to please make sure that brewers understand there is no requirement that spent grains be dried an pre-packaged. We are continuing the talks we began a year ago with FDA and other industry groups to make sure the amended rule we expect this summer allows us to continue this practice of marketing spent grains in the safe, sanitary and swift manner that the industry has exhibited.”
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