FDA to revise proposed new grain regulations for craft brewers

Brewers Association: FDA trying to find solution

CINCINNATI -- The FDA may be backing off from proposed changes that would have affected brewers and farmers across the nation.

In the days leading to the end of March, there was a large outcry from the beer industry and beer fans alike after the FDA proposed making changes to how breweries dispense with their spent grain.

For hundreds of years, brewers have sold or given away their spent grain to farmers for use as a cheap and healthy feed filler for livestock.

RELATED: New FDA proposal may change partnership between brewers, farmers

However, that centuries-old practice was put in jeopardy with the FDA's response to Food Safety Modernization Act. Congress passed in the bill in 2011.

According to Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza, the FDA responded to the bill by creating new processes for the handling of the grain.

“(The) FDA interpreted that the exemption Congress gave alcohol beverage producers ends for the spent grain when the spent grain is separated from the wort (beer before fermentation) or wash (pre-distillation liquid). The FDA would have allowed spent grains to be exempt if they were in a prepackaged form that prevents any direct human contact with the animal food,” Gatza said.

Brewers said the regulations would be an onerous issue for them. If a brewery had to upgrade their equipment, add new procedures and package the grain before selling it; many of them said they’d be more apt to simply have the grain shipped to a landfill.

The Caraker Law Firm wrote a post on the issue saying such facilities would be required to have:

  • A written food safety plan
  • A hazard analysis
  • Preventive controls for hazard(s) that are within reason to occur
  • Recall plan for animal food with a hazard that is within reason to occur
  • Monitoring
  • Corrective actions
  • Verification
  • Associated record keeping

The proposed rules were met with condemnation from across the industry, and after significant public outcry, even legislators got involved asking the FDA to exempt brewers from the regulations.

“One item that has resonated with Congress is the concept that FDA is attempting to apply a solution to an issue that isn’t a problem. And that repurposing a brewers’ spent grain as animal feed has been an accepted practice for hundreds of years without problem providing a source of low-cost feed and hydration for the animals and allowing brewers to efficiently get rid of this brewing co-product,” Gatza said.

The Brewers Association said it spoke with the FDA in early April about the issue and received word that agency doesn’t want to see the grain sent to the landfill.

The FDA released a statement to craft beer website Brewbound (reprinted here with Brewbound's permission) about the issue:

“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.”

Gatza said the FDA is working to find a regulatory solution that would not be a major burden to the industry.

“They have not indicated that they will be exempting brewers or other alcohol beverage producers however,” Gatza said.

Those revised proposed rules would be released for comment sometime after July 4.

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