Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has finally approved variations to the Food Safety Code that would allow the sale of hemp seed products as a food in both countries – but there will still be a wait and some remaining barriers to overcome.
Australia and New Zealand have the dubious distinction of being the only two countries in the world where it’s still illegal to sell hemp seed foods – and even New Zealand allows the sale of hemp seed oil.
While the tasty and nutritious seed can be purchased in both countries, it can’t be marketed as a food – so food-grade products have been sold for external or topical use only. It was one of the world’s worst kept secrets that these products were being widely consumed as food.
FSANZ approved the draft variation on regulations earlier this month that will help change hemp seed’s status and informed the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation last Wednesday.
“FSANZ concludes that low THC hemp seed foods are safe for consumption when they contain no more than specified maximum levels (MLs) of THC (including its acid precursor delta 9 – tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), states the report (PDF).
“FSANZ has also recognised low THC hemp seed foods may provide a useful alternative dietary source of nutrients and polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids.”
The body had given the tick of approval to hemp seed previously, but there was still a great deal of devil in the detail to sort out in terms of the Food Standards Code, which apparently has now been done.
Under the amended regulations, whole seeds including the hull (shell) of the industrial hemp plan (Cannabis sativa), will not be permitted for sale. Seeds must be hulled and non-viable; i.e. unable to sprout. There will also be advertising restrictions, such as implying a link with illicit cannabis or intoxicating effects will not be permitted.
The commencement date for the approved draft variation of the Food Standards Code is six months from now, enabling Australian and New Zealand regulators the time needed to amend relevant legislation that will be required to support it.
State and Territory governments will also need to approve the sale of hemp seed as food in their respective jurisdictions, which could occur as soon as next month during the April Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting. However, there is still concern there may be resistance from some governments, further drawing out what has been an excruciatingly long process.