Against Grain: Brewers, Farmers Fight FDA's Proposed Regulation

Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014 12:53 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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Brewers and farmers are fighting a proposed rule by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to end the practice of brewers giving leftover grain to local farmers to feed cows, potentially costing both industries thousands of dollars.

For centuries, brewers have given or sold the leftover grain from the brewing process to local ranchers and dairy farmers for cattle feed, and the arrangement was mutually beneficial. Farmers had access to cheap or free grain, while brewers didn't have to worry about taking the grain to landfills. But the new regulations proposed by the FDA threatens to end that relationship, according to Fox News.

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The regulation, intended to prevent food-borne illnesses like salmonella by regulating the grain, is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act passed by Congress in 2011. The regulation would require breweries to monitor, clean, and sample the grain before taking it to farmers. 

According to a study by the Beer Institute and the American Malt Barley Association, this would translate an investment of $13.6 million annually from breweries in terms of manpower and machinery, according to the Coloradoan.

"This is the kind of recycling story we want to see continue," Chris Thorne, of the Washington-based Beer Institute, said.

An editorial by The Oregonian argues that the FDA rule creates an expensive solution to a problem that does not exist. 

"Keep in mind the grains were judged to be fit for human consumption upon arrival at the breweries," the editorial read. "But at the back end of a food-production process for humans the grains might, if only through distribution, pick up contamination and trigger an outbreak of some sort among suffering cows. And nobody recalls a cow ever getting sick from eating the sweet mush — not even the FDA."

In response to the backlash, the FDA said it will amend the regulation by the summer.

"We are working to develop regulations that are responsive to the concerns expressed, practical for businesses, and that also help ensure that food for animals is safe and will not cause injury to animals or humans," Juli Putnam said on behalf of FDA.

Thorne told the Coloradoan that he was "cautiously optimistic" that the FDA will come to a practical decision.

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