Regulation & Safety

‘Double whammy’: Senator insists FDA rule could cripple craft brewers

23-Apr-2014
Last updated on 23-Apr-2014 at 13:49 GMT - By Ben Bouckley+
Senator Charles Schumer wrote to FDA commissioner Hamburg Monday urging her to rethink the implementation of FSMA rules on animal feed (Photo: Senate Democrats)
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Senator Charles Schumer is calling on US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Margaret Hamburg to strike out a new rule that will hinder brewers selling spent grain to farmers for animal feed.

Stemming from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the attempt to regulate brewing by-product ‘spent grain’ via proposed rule FDA-2011-N-0922 on animal feed has dominated the US beer news agenda for weeks now, even before Schumer’s intervention.

Breweries can currently sell spent or ‘wet’ grains to farms at a low cost, or even give them away; rich in fiber and protein, they also provide hydration to animals.

Opponents claim that the new rule – this FDA presentation provides a useful précis – means that grain could be regulated in such a way that brewers are forced to dump, rather than donate it.

FDA identifies ‘gaps’ in animal food regulation

The new regulation will force brewers to change the way they store and monitor grain, with increased costs due to the need for hazard analysis and a written recall plan.

“Through a comprehensive review of the animal food safety system in the US, the agency has identified gaps in the regulation of non-medicated animal food,” the FDA insists, in its background to the proposed rule.

The agency cites lack of Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) to provide baseline requirements for safe animal food, and lack of hazard analysis and preventive controls, and estimates the cost of the new rule at $100m (one-time compliance cost) then $128m/year.

“An improved animal food safety system can reduce the number of recalls, reduce the risk of serious illness and death to animals…reducing the risk of adverse health events to humans handling contaminated animal food,” the FDA states.

But industry figures and Schumer argue – via his letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg – that there is no compelling evidence spent grains pose a health risk to humans or animals.

The cost of compliance? Brewers say $50m

The politician insists that the FDA’s new federal rule – the 120-day consultation period ended earlier this year would be a “double whammy” for his New York constituency that would hurt craft brewers and farmers alike.

“This proposed FDA rule would drive up costs for both farmers and brewers with no clear health and safety benefit,” Schumer said, adding that the rule change could cost brewers $50m/year.

“So I’m urging the FDA to do an about-face on this misguided rule, which would stymie a mutually beneficial relationship between two of upstate New York’s most important industries,” he added.

Senator Schumer argues that many brewers would find it cheaper to simply throw the grain away rather than comply with the new regulation, and warns it could drive up the cost of beer for consumers by making brewers’ production processes less efficient.

 “The brewing industry estimates that compliance with the proposed rule could cost over $50m a year and could be a significant burden on small brewers who produce fewer than 1,000 barrels of beer annually,” Schumer writes, in his letter to Hamburg.

“I hope you will…revise the proposed rule to uphold strong and meaningful safety standards without placing unnecessary burdens on both brewers and farmers,” he adds.

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