Australian/New Zealand Ministers Finally OK Hemp Seeds As Food

Hemp seeds as food in Australia
Image: BigStock

The end of the craziness surrounding buying and selling hemp seeds for food purposes in Australia and New Zealand is in sight.

The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation meeting held last week saw Ministers supporting a draft standard allowing “low-THC hemp seeds”* to be sold as a food.

The Ministers arrived at the favourable conclusion (that other countries had years ago) after receiving a report on the potential of low-THC food’s impact on drug testing protocols, resolving marketing and labeling issues, issues relating to cannabidiol levels* and also legal and Treaty details.

In late March, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) approved variations to the Food Safety Code enabling the sale of hemp seed products as a food both in Australia and across the ditch.

So, are we there yet? Not quite.

The standards the Ministers agreed to won’t take effect until six months after it has been gazetted – and legislation that currently makes the sale of low-THC hemp seeds as a food illegal will need to be amended. That could take anywhere up to 18 months in New Zealand.

As to how long it will take in Australia is unclear at this stage, but Tasmania’s Minister for Health seems to think it will be 6 months.

“The new food standard will commence in six months to allow other jurisdictions to make the necessary regulatory changes to make this a truly national approach,” said Minister Ferguson.

“Tasmania is ready to go and whilst our preference was for this to commence immediately, it does mean that the Tasmanian industry can plan, plant and market next season’s crop with full confidence and no delay at all.”

In the meantime, hemp seeds can still be easily purchased online, but they won’t be advertised as being for food applications.

It’s hard to believe the struggle to have this nutritional and safe food available as such again has been going on for so many years.

NSW Greens agriculture spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham was very happy with the news. Mr. Buckingham has previously admitted in Parliament he enjoyed eating hempseed.

“This is a big win for farmers, consumers, and the Greens.  Finally COAG has stopped dragging its feet, got beyond the stigma, and recognised hemp as a crop and food product with enormous potential,” he said.

“Allowing farmers to sell both the seed and the fibre will make hemp a viable crop for farmers to grow and potentially create a new export market for Australia.”

Learn more about the benefits of hemps seeds as a food; and why this delay has really been a storm in a teacup and a huge disservice to residents of both countries.

* Editor’s note – there is no such thing as high-THC or high-cannabidiol hemp seed – all hemp seed is naturally low in each of these compounds.