Ministerial Forum to consider approving low THC hemp as a food

The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum will meet tomorrow (30 January) to review the use of Cannabis sativa with low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, in both seed and seed oil, as a food.

Hemp or industrial hemp is a Cannabis plant species (Cannabis sativa). Historically, hemp has been used as a source of fibre and oil.

Hemp is different to other varieties of Cannabis sativa, commonly referred to as marijuana. Hemp contains no, or very low levels of THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical associated with the psychoactive properties of marijuana.

Hemp seeds contain protein, vitamins and minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seed food products may provide an alternative dietary source of these nutrients.

In December 2012 the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation sought a review of a FSANZ decision to approve an application seeking to permit low-THC hemp as food. This means the sale of foods containing hemp-based ingredients is still prohibited.

In New Zealand the sale of hemp seed oil as a food has been permitted since 2002, subject to certain conditions.

In December 2013, the Forum agreed to extend the review period until 30 June 2014 and asked for further advice from FSANZ. At its meeting on 27 June 2014, the Forum considered FSANZ’s advice and advised FSANZ that the review was due to be completed on 5 December 2014. The review has been completed and will be considered tomorrow.

The Forum received advice from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, recommending approval of the sale of hulled and non-viable hemp seeds.

FSANZ conducted an economic analysis as part of its assessment, which concluded the approved variation would provide moderate benefits to industry and consumers. 


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