Tim Hearden/Capital Press
The federal government is apparently backing away from a plan to apply stringent new food safety requirements to spent grain that breweries provide to ranchers as animal feed.
Michael Taylor, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner, said in a blog post the agency sympathizes with concerns within the brewing and cattle industries that such a rule would cause the popular grain to be diverted to landfills.
Industry representatives were concerned that a provision in the new Food Safety Modernization Act would put leftover barley and wheat from the brewing process under the same handling and reporting requirements as other animal feed, even though the grains had been steeped in 170-degree water.
Taylor acknowledged that making breweries comply “not only with human food safety requirements but also additional, redundant animal feed standards” would “impose costs without adding value for food or feed safety.
“That, of course, would not make common sense, and we’re not going to do it,” he wrote in the April 24 post. The agency indicated a revised rule will be presented later this year.
Taylor’s remarks pleased leaders of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. , in Chico, Calif., which sends its spent grain to the California State University-Chico farm and to local ranchers.
“It’s very encouraging,” company spokesman Ryan Arnold said. “We’re looking ahead to the revision they … plan to put out this summer to see how they adjusted the language, and see if it indeed does help the brewer-farmer relationship.”
Taylor said in his post that spent grain from alcoholic beverage brewing and distilling is part of a broader package of edible byproducts from human-food manufacturing that are made available as animal feed rather than being sent to landfills. He estimated that as much as 70 percent of human-food byproducts become feed for animals.
The FDA heard from trade groups, members of Congress and individual breweries raising concerns about the rule, explained Taylor, who is the agency’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.
Chico State and Sierra Nevada were among those that sent comments on the rule, which the FDA had said was part of a new, broad modernization of the food safety system that would prevent foodborne illness in both animals and people, according to The Associated Press.
In its comments, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association asserted there is “no scientific evidence that warrants further processing” of grains “in terms of animal health.”
Oregon lawmakers also sounded an alarm about the proposed policy, noting that the state’s beer industries employ 6,400 full- and part-time employees -- an increase of 900 jobs from 2011. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement he welcomed the FDA’s announcement that it will rewrite its controversial plan.
“It looks like the Food and Drug Administration has sobered up when it comes to spent grains,” he said. “The agency deserves credit for acknowledging the flaws in its proposed rule, and pledging to issue a revised plan later this year.”
FDA deputy commissioner Michael Taylor’s statement: http://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/2014/04/getting-it-right-on-spent-grains
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.: http://www.sierranevada.com
Sen. Ron Wyden: http://www.wyden.senate.gov