MILWAUKEE – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it will revise proposed livestock feed rules after hearing objections about the potential cost from brewers who sell grain left over from making beer to ranchers and dairy farmers.
Beer makers big and small feared they would have to pay for grain testing, equipment, audits and other safety measures at an estimated cost of $13.6 million per brewery, likely affecting the price of beer, beef and dairy products. To avoid passing on those costs, some brewers said they would have simply sent the grain to landfills.
The FDA proposed the rules as part of its implementation of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which is aimed at preventing outbreaks of foodborne illness. One incentive was the 2007 contamination of pet food from China with melamine, which killed hundreds of dogs and cats in the U.S.
“That was a tragic thing for pets, and it was sort of a wake-up call for everyone involved in food safety,” said Dan McChesney, an FDA veterinary medicine official. “If this could happen with pet food, why couldn’t it happen with human food?”
Livestock feed is generally safe, and the FDA is not aware of any problems with brewers’ grain, McChesney said. The agency did not intend to force beer makers to come up with costly food safety plans, but it is concerned about potential contamination between the factory and the farm, he said.
Brewers noted their grain is already covered by food safety rules for humans.
More regulation “just looked like it was a solution looking for a problem,” said Deb Carey, co-owner of New Glarus Brewing Wisconsin. Her craft brewery donates about 5 million pounds of spent grain per year to a local dairy farmer.