FDA to re-evaluate 'spent grains' as part of feed rule

FDA is reconsidering portions of proposed FSMA rules concerning 'spent grains' from alcohol beverage production.

According to a "FDA Voice" blog post April 24 by Food & Drug Administration deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine Michael Taylor, FDA has received "a lot of questions and comments" about so-called spent grains since the March 31 close of the comment period on FDA’s proposed animal feed rule. Spent grains are byproducts of alcoholic beverage brewing and distilling that are used as animal feed.

Taylor said the agency has heard from trade groups and members of Congress, as well as individual breweries raising concerns that FDA might disrupt or even eliminate this practice by making brewers, distillers and food manufacturers comply not only with human food safety requirements but also additional, redundant animal feed standards that would impose costs without adding value for food or feed safety.

According to Taylor, FDA agrees with "those in industry and the sustainability community that the recycling of human food byproducts to animal feed contributes substantially to the efficiency and sustainability of our food system and is, thus, a good thing."

FDA also believes the potential for any animal safety hazard to result from feeding spent grains is "minimal, provided the food manufacturer takes common sense steps to minimize the possibility of glass, motor oil or other similar hazards being inadvertently introduced, such as if scraps for animal feed were held in the same dumpster used for floor sweepings and industrial waste."

Editor's note: Throughout the spent grains debate started by craft breweries, a distinction has been made between "spent grains" from beverage alcohol production and "ethanol co-products" such as dried distillers grains plus solubles, which are extremely much more commonly fed to livestock and are often sold as branded, high-quality feed ingredients.

In the blog post, Taylor said FDA "understands how the language we used in our proposed rule could lead to the misperception that we are proposing to require human food manufacturers to establish separate animal feed safety plans and controls to cover their byproducts, but it was never our intent to do so. In fact, we invited comment on practical ways to address by-products in keeping with their minimal potential risk."

Taylor said the agency will "clarify" its intent in the rules to minimize confusion. As previously announced, FDA will issue revised proposals for comment this summer on several key Food Safety Modernization Act issues.

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