FDA responds to crafter brewers' concerns on FSMA

By Susanne Retka Schill | May 05, 2014

The industry is likely to have another opportunity to look at the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed regulations under the Food Safety and Modernization Act.

Increasing pressure has been brought by craft brewers and picked up by media reports that highlighted the concerns of small brewers worried about the cost of compliance. In mid-April, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) wrote to the FDA commissioner, urging the agency exempt raw agricultural commodities, distillers grains and other byproducts.  In the letter, Johanns wrote, “I am concerned about FDA regulation of byproducts used in animal food.  Whether the byproducts are from ethanol plants, breweries, or human food manufacturers, these are an important part of the supply chain for animal food and help companies reduce waste and create additional value.  However, the proposed rule included a number of new requirements that would have made the distribution of byproducts cost-prohibitive.  That would endanger an economical food source, instead threatening to clog our landfills with nutritious feedstuffs.”

A week after Johann’s letter, FDA’s deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Michael Taylor addressed the issue in a blog, “Getting it Right on Spent Grains.”

He outlined the concerns raised that FDA might disrupt or even eliminate the use of byproducts for feed or impose redundant standards. “That, of course, would not make common sense, and we’re not going to do it,” Taylor wrote. “In fact, we agree with those in industry and the sustainability community that the recycling of human food by-products to animal feed contributes substantially to the efficiency and sustainability of our food system and is thus a good thing. We have no intention to discourage or disrupt it.”

While the language in the proposed rule could lead to the misperception that human food manufacturers would need to establish separate animal feed safety plants and control for by-product, he wrote, “It was never our intent to do so.” He pointed out that in the proposed rule, the agency asked for comments on practical ways to address by-products.  “We will take the necessary steps to clarify our intent in the rules themselves so there can be no confusion,” he continued. “As we previously announced, this summer we plan to issue revised proposals for comment on several key FSMA issues and we will include changes consistent with the points I’ve outlined in this blog.”

FDA explained the issues further in a document on its website, “Questions and Answers for Brewers/Distillers on the FSMA Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Animal Food.”

In addition to the specific issues raised by the craft brewers, the revised rules being reopened this summer for comment are expected to clarify issues impacting other industries, including the fuel ethanol industry.  The deadline is Aug. 30, 2015, for the final rule covering good manufacturing practices and preventative controls for food for animals.