Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is calling for
submissions in response to its draft variation of the Food
Standards Code that would permit the sale of foods derived from low
tetrahydrocannbinol (THC) hemp. The proposal follows a request by
the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation
(Forum) for FSANZ to consider how THC could be legally designated
Presently, the Food Standards Code (Code) prohibits the
inclusion of cannabis or derivatives in food products in Australia.
The position is the same in New Zealand, save for hemp seed oil,
which can be sold as a food product.
FSANZ's proposed variation to the Code would allow for the
sale of foods containing low THC Cannabis sativa seeds, as long as
the seeds are nonviable and hulled, and contain no more than 5 mg
of THC per kilogram of seeds. The sale of food containing the
following products would also be permitted:
Oil extracted from the seeds of low THC Cannabis sativa, if the
oil contains not more than 10 mg of THC per kilogram of oil;
A beverage derived from seeds of low THC Cannabis sativa, if
the beverage contains not more than 0.2 mg of THC per kilogram of
Any other substance that is extracted or derived from seeds of
low THC Cannabis sativa and contains not more than 5 mg of THC per
kilogram of the relevant substance.
In recommending an amendment to the Food Standards Code, FSANZ
found that low THC hemp seeds do not present a public health and
safety risk. FSANZ also noted that low THC hemp seeds are
nutritionally dense, including being a source of omega-3 and
polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The Forum requested FSANZ to provide policy advice about
restricting the advertising of low THC hemp, particularly the use
of cannabis leaf imagery and claims of psychoactive effects or
links to illicit cannabis. FSANZ concluded that imposing
advertising restrictions in the Code would not be appropriate,
pointing to the lack of supporting research, the existing consumer
law (eg, misleading or deceptive conduct provisions) and the
experience in foreign jurisdictions. FSANZ also noted the
possibility of additional legislative prohibitions on advertising
in which it is claimed that hemp food products have psychoactive
qualities, which would exist outside the Foods Standards Code.
FSANZ also considered whether it is necessary to impose a limit
on cannabidiol (CBD), in order to distinguish food products from
therapeutic goods. FSANZ concluded that imposing a CBD limit is not
necessary, as a person would need to consume 24kg of hemp seeds per
day to constitute a therapeutic dose – orders of magnitude
more than would be possible. Further, FSANZ's draft wording
made clear that CBD-fortified products could not be used as a food
The proposal follows two previous applications, submitted to
FSANZ in 1998 and 2009, which also sought the legalisation of low
THC hemp food products. These applications were both approved by
FSANZ, but then rejected by the Forum due to concerns regarding law
enforcement (such as road-side drug testing), CBD levels and
mechanisms for marketing of low THC hemp food products. The
approval of the Forum is a necessary prerequisite for the proposed
changes to the Food Standards Code to become law.
Legalising hemp-based foods would bring Australia in line with
Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, amongst other
countries that allow some hemp food products
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