FDA backs off its rule on brewers’ spent grain

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has backed away from a rule regarding the disposal of spent grain that conjured up the ire of brewers and famers alike.

In late March, the FDA closed the comment period on its animal feed rule, which would have created an onerous process for brewers trying to give their spent grain to farmers to feed their livestock, a common practice in the brewing world. Spent grain is a byproduct of brewing beer that is often used in cooking as well as animal feed.

The rule would have required brewers to prepare written food safety plans including expensive monitoring processes to ensure that spent grain had not come into contact with any harmful substances.

Since the grain is usually given to farmers at little to no cost, implementing the rule would have severely inhibited the process.

In an April 24 blog post, Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA said that the administration never meant to impinge on the spent grain trade.

“We understand how the language we used in our proposed rule could lead to the misperception that we are proposing to require human food manufacturers to establish separate animal feed safety plans and controls to cover their by-products, but it was never our intent to do so,” Taylor wrote. “In fact, we invited comment on practical ways to address by-products in keeping with their minimal potential risk.”
The full blog post can be found here.

Brewers in Colorado have close relationships with local farmers, who haul away spent grain, giving the brewers a way to get rid of the grain, and providing a low-cost source of feed for animals. At Fort Collins’ Odell Brewing Co., a chocolate milk stout is named “Lugene,” after Lugene Sas, owner of Taft Hill Dairy, who hauls away the brewery’s spent grain.

Odell and other local breweries, including Longmont’s Oskar Blues Brewery and New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, reached out to the FDA and Colorado lawmakers to try to reverse the FDA’s decision.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., praised the FDA’s decision in a statement Thursday.

“This was a classic case of the unintended consequences and confusion that can sometimes flow from well-meaning policies and language in Washington. Sometimes, by the time it gets here to Colorado, it doesn’t make much sense,” Bennet said in the statement. “We’re glad the FDA listened to the voices of Colorado’s livestock producers and breweries, like Oskar Blues, and is recalibrating its approach appropriately.”

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, marmbrister@ncbr.com or twitter.com/MArmbristerNCBR

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