FDA regulation could cause spike in beer prices

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - You might not be able to taste a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation, but you sure will see it in the price you pay for beer.

Breweries around the country go through the same process to make a batch of beer.

"We start with malt and barley. We convert starch to sugar and we take all the sugar out of it," Craig Pijanowski said, Lead Brewer with Boulevard.

What's left is a mash of spent grain. For every batch of brew, four tons of spent grain is left over. So, breweries like Boulevard Brewing Co. partner with farmers to take it off their hands.

"If we did not sell spent grain it would probably just go to the landfill," Pijanowski said.

Pat Ross has a farm in Lawrence . He started taking the spent grain from Boulevard a couple years ago. Ross says using the mash saves him about 10 percent of his feed budget every year.

"We use it as a supplement to the protein and the corn that we feed," Ross said. "It's a win-win right now and I sure hope the FDA doesn't monkey with it and mess it up for everybody involved."

Now the FDA wants to regulate the process. They say it will prevent foodborne illness in animals and people.

"It's not a food safety issue because our spent grain is going to feed cattle. It's in no way affecting food safety," Pijanowski said.

The proposed regulation could force breweries to dry the spent grain and package it before it goes to farms.

"You're talking about spending thousands of dollars for the machinery to dry the spent grain," Pijanowski said.

The FDA has released the following statement:

"We recognize this is an area that should be addressed, and we are confident we will find a common-sense solution. FDA's current understanding is that the potential hazards associated with spent grains from brewers and distillers are minimal.  The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act directs the FDA to provide sufficient flexibility to be practicable for all types of facilities, to acknowledge differences in risks, and to minimize, as appropriate, the number of separate standards that apply to separate foods. The FDA is reviewing three rules that we proposed -- the proposed produce safety rule, the proposed preventive controls rule for human food, and the proposed preventive controls rule for animal food to avoid unnecessary, inconsistent, or duplicative requirements.  We expect brewers and distillers to take reasonable measures to protect food for animals from chemical and physical hazards, and will address the issue in forthcoming reproposals."

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