FoodNavigator-Asia has reported in December 2011 that the legalising of hemp as a food source was close to being a reality after the head of Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) backed its entry into the food chain.
FSANZ CEO Steve McCutcheon had said then that his agency’s assessment had revealed, “Low THC hemp foods are safe to eat and may provide a useful alternative dietary source of many nutrients and polyunsaturated fatty acids.”
However, Dr Andrew Katelaris, who made the initial submission for their approval, said in a statement that he had received a letter dated March 16 stating that the approval would be delayed until late 2012.
FSANZ stated in the letter that there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed before a final decision can be made by its board, including the potential cost impact on food and law enforcement agencies.
Also of concern was the issue of whether hemp foods could interfere with saliva THC testing results and whether the industry can achieve lower amounts of THC in foods than the levels proposed by FSANZ in their initial assessment, it said.
THC or delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the compound found in Cannabis sativa that when present in high concentrations is responsible for the psychoactive effect of the plant.
Varieties of C. sativa that contain high levels of THC are known by various names including marijuana, whereas varieties with low THC concentrations are referred to as hemp or industrial hemp.
“I am fervently opposed to this delay in the assessment of the hemp foods application, since it is the third time the decision has been setback in 18 months,” Katelaris said, adding that he would be contacting the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to provide an independent review of the FSANZ assessment process.