The decision by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to approve the use of hemp products containing low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the production of food has received widespread approval since its announcement earlier this month.
Phil Reader, president of the Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania, told ABC Radio: “[FSANZ’s] final report states basically that there are no problems with consuming industrial hemp products made for food.
"There are no scientific reasons, there are no safety issues; all those have been evaluated, so they're recommending it is acceptable for human consumption.”
None of the highs
FSANZ approval would permit the sale of hulled hemp seeds and corresponding products, including hemp milk, muesli bars and baking flour. The hulled seeds must be unable to grow, contain no more than a minimal amount of the psychoactive chemical delta 9-THC, and be derived from low-THC plant lines.
The next step is for health ministers from each Australian state and New Zealand to meet to make a decision on whether they accept the recommendations within 60 days.
The standards agency had assessed an application made by a former medical doctor to approve the use of cannabis sativa in both seed and seed oil as a food.
It arrived at a decision to amend the current legal framework based on scientific evidence that included a detailed risk assessment that could not find any health and safety concerns associated with consumption as food.
According to the report compiled by FSANZ, the draft standard offers the best balance between the potential benefits to consumers and industry and potential costs for government and law enforcement agencies.
The sale of hemp seed oil is already permitted in New Zealand, and a more general permission for foods derived from hemp seed in Australia and New Zealand could serve to enhance trans-Tasman trade in these products, the report speculated.
This is not the first time that the trans-Tasman food regulator has attempted to allow hemp for consumption as food. However, the first time in 2002, its approval was overruled by a council of health ministers who rejected the move because they believed it would confuse the public over the acceptability and safety of cannabis.
According to Kim Renshaw, who markets hemp seed oil in New Zealand, the crop is as good for consumer health as fish oil supplements. “It’s the most polyunsaturated oil, and it has omega 3 and 6 in the perfect ratio for the human body.
“It’s cold-pressed, which is really important [whereas] other refined vegetable oils use heat and chemicals, which damage the nutrients and antioxidants, and those are what we want to take it for.”
Editor's note: Is it high time for hemp to be allowed as a food? Or will its acceptance lead to too much confusion, as was the case 10 years ago. Let us know your opinions in the comments below.