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After outcry, FDA to revise proposed rules on brewery grain as feed (w/video)

  • Cattle feed on the spent grains from brewing beer at Oak Ridge Ranch in the Alexander Valley. For the past 18 years the LaFranchi family has teamed with Bear Republic Brewing Co. to put the grains to use feeding beef cattle. Their cattle production has increased in tandem with the Healdsburg-based beer maker.

The FDA, however, says it wants to make sure there is no possibility of contamination of the waste, part of a sweeping modernization of the nation's food supply authorized by Congress. The comment period on the proposed regulation closed Monday; it's not yet clear how many people or organizations submitted comments, but McChesney admitted to being surprised by the volume of outrage over the proposal.

Brewers said slapping new food handling requirements on the grain would be difficult and expensive and might force them to dump billions of pounds of spent grains into landfills.

The Beer Institute, a major trade association for the brewers, reacted with pleasure to news the FDA might issue less burdensome rules.

Beer And Beef Cows

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"We are cautiously optimistic that they are going to amend the rule by summer and do so in a way that we can continue this practice without going through the onerous regulatory process they propose," said Chris Thorne, vice president of communications for the Beer Institute.

Brewers argue there are no documented cases of illness from the use of spent grains. McChesney agreed, but said the regulatory modernization effort is designed to orient the FDA more toward prevention than reacting after a problem occurs.

Just because there has never been a case of illness from the grains, he said, "doesn't mean you couldn't have a problem."

Brewers also argue they should be exempt from FDA regulation of byproducts such as spent grain under the same law that makes finished alcoholic beverages — beer, wine, cider and spirits — exempt from the FDA's normal oversight of food products.

McChesney said the agency had been operating under the assumption that since the grain and other byproducts are not in themselves alcoholic beverages, the FDA has authority to regulate them.

The agency will have its lawyers take a closer look at the industry's argument, he said.

"It's at least worth being considered and responded to," he said.


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