Delayed approval of hemp for food

Biological Farmers of Australia reports Australian growers and consumers will face a longer wait for the approval of low THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) hemp seed products to be approved for sale as food, after Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) advised interested parties by letter in March that it expects to complete the assessment in the second half of 2012. FSANZ called for submissions in December 2011 to allow food derived from hemp (Assessment A1039) and said it is satisfied that hemp foods are safe for human consumption.

Issues that needed to be addressed before FSANZ’s board can make a final decision include the potential cost impact on law enforcement agencies and on food, whether hemp foods could interfere with saliva THC testing results and if the industry can achieve lower amounts of THC in foods than the levels proposed in FSANZ’s initial assessment.

A FSANZ spokesperson says there have been many important issues raised in submissions, a number of which are technical and complex and require more consideration.

“FSANZ needs to have the best possible evidence and needs to be absolutely clear in order to make a fully informed decision,” FSANZ says.

“FSANZ is also required to prepare a regulatory impact assessment and look at a broad range of matters including impacts, benefits and costs on industry, consumers and the broad community. FSANZ will follow up directly with submitters and stakeholders for more detailed information on the issues raised.”

In Canada, hemp seed products are a $500 million industry and a rich source of vital nutrients and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3s, with exports increasing to the USA, Australia, the UK and Europe.

President of the Industrial Hemp Association of Victoria, Lyn Stephenson, points out that application A360 took four years from 1998 and was rejected. Ms Stephenson says if hemp as food is approved, two processors in Victoria would produce hemp seed oil immediately, while a flourmill is keen to experiment.

Kenrick Riley, an OGA-certified organic vegetable grower and member of the Northern Rivers Hemp Association in NSW says he is looking at hemp as a summer, high protein grain crop and could look at early stage processing.

“No summer grain crops are being grown east of the Great Divide and it would allow farmers to develop another industry,” he says.

“I believe the application will go through, mainly for health reasons.”