The Beer Institute and the American Malting Barley Association have filed joint comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in an effort to protect the practice of brewers marketing their brewers' grain to local animal producers.

The Beer Institute has been working with members of Congress, regulators and organizations to present an economic and scientific argument that it is unnecessary for the FDA to add more regulation to brewers' spent grain and other brewing by-products.

For centuries, brewers have given or sold spent grain to local farmers and ranchers. If the draft regulations issued under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) - which gives the FDA broad new authority to regulate food - are upheld, brewers would be forced to throw away valuable feed. This is because it would be too expensive for brewers to comply with the proposed regulations. The Beer Institute estimates compliance could cost a single brewery more than $13 million in one-time and reoccurring costs.

"This regulation is onerous and expensive, but really it's just unnecessary," said Chris Thorne, Beer Institute vice president of communications. "There has never been a single reported negative incidence with spent grain. We have had very positive conversations with the FDA and other concerned stakeholders making us cautiously optimistic."

Support from National Milk Producers Federation

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) also filed comments backing the Beer Institute's stance. The NMPF says it supports efforts to implement the law, but thinks the draft regulation goes too far because it would make it harder to use brewers' grain as animal feed. The NMPF asked the FDA to revise the regulation and requested the FDA establish a new comment period for the industry and public.

"Given the very significant nature of these regulations, a second opportunity for stakeholders' comment is essential to ensure the final rule is practical, achievable and fosters the safe production and distribution of animal feed," NMPF said.

The NMPF believes the draft regulation imposes safety standards on animal feed that are too similar to those for human food.

"The innate hygienic standards of humans exceed the hygienic standards of livestock," the organization said. It asked FDA to propose manufacturing standards specific to animal feed.

The FDA issued a comment in response to the industry's concerns.

"We know there are concerns about the impact of this proposed rule on the brewing community, and we further understand that brewers who are small businesses also have questions about how the proposed rule might affect them. We anticipated some of these issues when we requested comment on the proposed rule and are already reviewing the extensive input received from brewers and others. We recognize this is an area that should be addressed and will reach out to those concerned.  When the agency proposes revised language for this rule later this summer, we will include more on this issue and welcome comments.  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."

AFIA submits 100 pages of comments

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) also seeks reassurance that the rule is dedicated to the animal feed industry rather than the human food industry.

"It is quite clear the majority of the proposed [current good manufacturing practices] requirements come directly from the human food rule, and it has been left up to the feed industry to prove why the requirements are unnecessary as many do not relate to animal food in the slightest," said Richard Sellers, AFIA's senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs. "A blatant example is where the proposed rule suggests ill employees can contaminate animal food, hence making the animal sick."

AFIA submitted more than 100 pages of comments on the proposed regulation, with 19 feed associations also signing in support.