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Australia edges closer to hemp authorisation for food uses

By Ankush Chibber , 08-Jul-2011

A proposal to overturn a ban on the use of hemp seeds in food products in Australia could see the use of the staple in food products available in the country.

Lorraine Belanger, communication manager for Food Standards Australia and New Zealand said that the regulator had received an application for the use of low THC Hemp as food.

The application was made by Dr Andrew Katelaris, a medical research scientist & Hemp agronomist, in which he argued that Hemp seeds offer considerable benefits that are freely available to the rest of the world but Australia.

Katelaris’ application has received the backing of the Dietary Association of Australia (DAA) that in a submission to the regulator said it supported the use of hempseed and its oil for its nutritional merits.

The association, which is the national association of the dietetic profession with over 4000 members, recommended the adequate labelling and advertising of hemp foods to provide consumers with information to allay concerns regarding psychoactive properties relating to those foods.

Holly Smith, a spokesperson for the association said, that said that the seed contains protein and many vitamins and minerals, and is high in the content of fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6.

According to FSANZ’s Belanger, the regulator is aware of the nutritional merits of Hemp seeds as a food rich in the essential fatty acids which are required for vital body functions, including the immune response, lipid hydrolysis, blood clotting, vascular dilation and cardiac function.

Belanger added that the regulator has previously assessed low-THC hemp foods under an application submitted in 1998, and it recommended the approval of low-THC hemp foods.

But the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council rejected this decision in 2002, she said.

“The council expressed concerns that the availability of hemp foods may send a confused message to consumers regarding the acceptability and safety of Cannabis use and create difficulties for the policing of illicit Cannabis use,” she said.

Belanger said the Ministerial Council has requested a discussion of this new application at a face-to-face meeting, once FSANZ has completed its consideration of the Application. This is expected to occur next year.

According to DAA’s Smith, if approved for use in Australia, it would be up to food manufacturers to look into innovative ways of using hemp seeds in food products.

“In overseas countries, products like muesli bars and breakfast cereals contain hemp seeds. They could be added to salads or sprinkled onto breakfast cereals, or used in cooked foods like muffins,” she said.

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