New FDA Food Safety Regulation may Drive up the Cost of Beer

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Spent grain from beer removed by Tim Butler of Empire Brewing Co. (photo: David Lassman, Syracuse Post-Standard)

Joe Six Pack might find himself paying more for suds thanks to new safety regulations developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


As part of the Food Modernization and Safety Act of 2011, the FDA wants to classify companies that distribute spent grain to farms as animal feed manufacturers. This could hurt the beer industry because breweries regularly sell or give their spent grain, which is left over from the beer-making process, to dairy farms, which feed it to cows.


But if breweries become animal feed manufacturers under the new rules, they would have to dry and package the spent grain before sending it to dairy farms. FDA regulators say it would be important to do so for food-safety reasons. Industry representatives say the change is unnecessary, and would impose a financial burden on brewers.


Scott Mennen, vice president of brewery operations at Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, told The Oregonian that forcing breweries to dry and package spent grain would result in added costs of $13 million per company.


Breweries would have two choices: Pass this cost onto consumers in the form of higher beer prices, or stop selling the spent grain to farms and just dump it in landfills, which would be less environmentally friendly.


Some brewers have accused the FDA of trying to regulate a problem that doesn’t exist, saying there hasn’t been a safety problem with spent grain being delivered as is to dairy operators.


One FDA official, Daniel McChesney, director of surveillance and compliance in the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, admitted to The Oregonian: “We don’t know of any problems … But we’re trying to get to a preventative mode.”


The brewers have some allies in Congress. Representative Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, is co-chair of the House craft-brewers’ caucus and is gathering signatures on a letter to the FDA asking it to reconsider its stance. “This is the kind of stuff that makes government look bad,” DeFazio said. “It would mark a huge setback … adding tons of waste to our landfills.”


McChesney said the FDA is reviewing the matter and might grant an exemption.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Beer Prices Could Go Up under FDA Rule that Angers Farmers, Brewers (by Lynne Terry, The Oregonian)

New, Environmentally Unfriendly FDA Proposal Will Hike Up the Price of Your Beer (by Scott Kaufman, Raw Story)

Obama Administration Saves Beer Drinkers from Monopoly Takeover (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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