A controversy that was brewing over the use of byproducts from beer production as animal food may have been turned aside by an FDA official’s recent reassurances regarding language in the proposed animal feed rule.
Brewers and others have raised concerns that, as written, language in the animal feed rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act would have a significant economic impact on the beer brewing industry and on farmers who rely on the byproducts of brewing for use as animal feed. The proposed rule was seen as changing how breweries handle spent grains, the mushy leftovers of beer production.
On April 24, Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in his FDA blog that the language in the proposed rule had led to “misperception” and that it had never been the FDA’s intent to “require human food manufacturers to establish separate animal feed safety plans and controls to cover their byproducts.”
The statement was preceded by a vigorous media and lobbying campaign by industry organizations including the not-for-profit Brewers Association, located in Colorado.
Before Taylor’s statement, the industry’s concern was that brewers would no longer be able to donate or sell at low cost their spent grains to farmers to use for animal feed. Instead, it was feared, the FDA regulation would require that the spent grain first be packaged, avoiding direct contact by human hands with the animal food.
In an interview before Taylor issued his remarks, Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, said that the proposed regulation would represent “an unwarranted burden for all brewers,” and that the FDA was “attempting to apply a regulatory solution to an issue that isn’t a problem.” The repurposing of spent grains 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,” he said.
Several legislators had weighed in on the proposed regulation. Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, along with 11 of their Senate colleagues, urged the FDA to consider the economic effect “when crafting a final rule to protect our nation’s food safety.” New York Senator Charles Schumer noted that the proposed rule would pose a “real burden for small brewers who produce less than 1,000 barrels of beer annually.”
In his blog post, Taylor said that his agency agrees that recycling of food byproducts to animal feed “contributes substantially to the efficiency and sustainability of our food system and is thus a good thing. We have no intention to discourage or disrupt it.”
The FDA is expected to issue revised proposals for comment this summer, taking the “necessary steps to clarify our intent in the rules themselves so there can be no confusion,” Mr. Taylor said.
The FDA also posted a list of questions and answers addressing the spent grains controversy.