When you visit breweries these days, whether in South Carolina or elsewhere, you may have noticed some spent grain sitting in a truck, trash can, or trailer that will soon be picked up by a farmer or taken to a farmer. Spent grain is the grain that brewers have used in the brewing process to make beer. After brewing a batch with the grain, it cannot be used again. In a way to help sustainable practices, local farmers, the environment, and sometimes even their own pocketbooks, many brewers across the country have found a nice side business of selling spent grains to local farmers for them to feed their animals. Now, not all brewers sell their spent grain. Many give it to the farmers for free.
Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, not so fast. The Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposed rule that would establish best practices for manufacturing animal feed. It will require anyone falling within the sales number to have record keep procedures and safety plans. There is an exception for business who have feed sales between $500,000.00 and $2.5M. Wouldn’t a lot of breweries have feed sales less than $500,000.00 per year? Probably. However, a brewery with spent grains sales averaging less than the $500K number over the last three years would be subject to the rule.
The proposed rule even discusses brewery practices:
“Section 116 of FSMA applies to animal food. However, the Agency is not aware of any animal food at alcoholic beverage facilities that would be exempt from section 418 of the FD&C Act under the proposed interpretation, and therefore is not aware of any animal food at alcoholic beverage facilities that would be exempt from proposed subpart C, ‘Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls,’ for animal food. For example, FDA understands that many breweries and distilleries sell spent grains, such as brewers dried grains and distillers dried grains, as animal food. Because those spent grains are not alcoholic beverages themselves, and they are not in a prepackaged form that prevents any direct human contact with the food, the Agency tentatively concludes that subpart C of this proposed rule would apply to them.”
So, what happens if this is adopted? Well, it would require a brewery selling spent grain to prepare and implement a written food safety plan, which would include a hazard analysis, preventative controls, monitoring procedures, corrective actions, verification activities, and record keeping. In short, when many breweries are trying to act green, this proposed rule would have them seeing red. As in red tape.
If you’d like to read the entire proposed rule, then that is available here: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm366510.htm
If you’d like to comment on the proposed rule, then you have until March 31, 2014 to do so. You may do that here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0922-0019
The Brewers Association has recommended the following as a template comment to send to the FDA. Please feel free to use and adjust as necessary.
Sample Comment on FDA Animal Food (Spent Grain) Regulations for Breweries
This comment is submitted on behalf of [name of brewery] located in [city, state], one of the more than 2,700 small breweries that operate throughout the United States and one of many that provide spent grain to local farms for use as animal feed.
We understand that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to regulate spent grains under provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), however, as an alcohol beverage facility (as defined in Section 116 of the FSMA) our brewery is exempt from those provisions.
The FDA should clarify that breweries may provide spent grain for use as animal feed without requiring complex new regulations and recordkeeping requirements that do not otherwise apply. The use of spent grain by farmers is a low-risk activity that has been mutually beneficial to brewers and farmers for decades. The alternative is to send the spent grain to landfills, wasting a reliable food source for farm animals and triggering a significant economic and environmental cost.
I urge the FDA to include a clear exemption in the final animal food regulations for breweries and other alcohol beverage facilities that qualify under the exemption in the FSMA.