Feed and grain groups have kept a watchful eye on the Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Modernization Act, dedicating the last few weeks to a curious clause in the new rules that could impact how brewers manage spent grains.
The spent grains, a by-product, are sometimes donated or sold to farms which later use the product as feed or as part of a feed ration. But FDA's new rules – part of a larger plan to hold producers of animal and human food to stricter illness prevention standards – could have unintended consequences, groups say.
According to the FDA's proposal summary, distillers and brewers who sell the spent grains as feed will be required to more closely monitor feed manufacturing, processing, or storage hazards as outlined in the rule's Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls section.
Facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold animal food for a range of species or variety of uses would need even stricter standards, the FDA proposal indicated.
"For example, a manufacturer that makes food for swine, which can tolerate a relatively large amount of copper in their diet, and food for sheep, which are very sensitive to copper, would need to adopt controls that would ensure that the sheep food … does not contain levels of copper that are unsafe for sheep," the rule summary explains.
As with any proposal, FDA allowed time for stakeholders to discuss the pros and cons of the plan via a comment period on the Federal Register.
When the comment period closed on March 31, the FDA began to sort through a large volume of feedback from groups like the Beer Institute and National Milk Producers Federation, both of which suggested the new rules would create enough burden on brewers and distillers that the grains might be tossed in a landfill rather than put to use as animal feed.
FDA, legislative reaction
Daniel McChesney, director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, quickly said the rules will be subject to a redraft that could ease concerns about the new guidelines.
"People reading (the proposal) thought 'I need a whole new system, we've got to do something totally different.' That was not our intent," McChesney told Sean Scully of the Press Democrat in California. "Though I'll admit that when reading through (the proposal), that is one possible interpretation."
Scully reports that McChesney said a proposal rewrite could set standards on length of time the grains could be in storage before being sent to a farm or what containers it could be transported in. It is expected to surface this summer.
Meanwhile, four Congress members on Tuesday presented a bill to ensure brewers are exempt from the proposed regulations, called the Protecting the Sustainable Use of Spent Grains Act.
Read more of Scully's story, and the proposed Spent Grains Act using the links below.
1. After outcry, FDA to revise proposed rules on brewery grain as feed. The Press Democrat
2. How brewers' grains are helping hog farmers and dog treat makers. Voice of San Diego
3. Pingree bill would continue to let farm animals eat spent brewery grain. Portland Press Herald
4. Commentary: Another bad side effect of the FSMA. KCET
5. Food & beverage lawyers discuss FDA feed rule language, exemptions. Lazlo Law
6. Video: Farmer discusses use of spent grains to feed his cattle herd. Bangor Daily News
Updated 4/9; 9 a.m.