Hemp seeds to be approved as food in Australia

Hemp seeds from low-THC Cannabis Sativa do not have an intoxicating effect when eaten as food. Image: Supplied

Although it wouldn’t be considered revolutionary anywhere else in the world, the legalisation of hemp seed as a food here in Australia could be a major game changer.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has recently announced that it will permit the sale of low-THC hemp seed products, such as flours and oils, for human consumption.

The regulatory body has already prepared and assessed a proposal to develop new regulation that will allow the sale of products derived from low delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol varieties of Cannabis Sativa.

It is expected that a decision will go before the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation on April 28 this year, which is also when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting will be held.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the psychoactive compounds in marijuana that is responsible for bringing about altered states of consciousness in users, however the low-THC varieties of the plant cannot affect people in that way.

“You can smoke your way through a field of it; you’d just get a very bad headache,” Hemp Foods Australia founder and CEO Paul Benhaim told C&I Week.

Mr Benhaim has been lobbying for the use of hemp as a food for 18 years.

“Hemp is already used in foods around the world, it’s not revolutionary anywhere else in the world,” he said.

Hemp seeds are already used around the world in bread products, such as rolls and bagels. Image: Supplied

“Just as poppy seeds are not seen as being related to opium production, hemp seeds do not have anything to do with the production of marijuana as a drug,” he said.

“You can buy hempseed bagels anywhere around the world, except in Australia.

“Hemp seed is very versatile. It has the nutritional profile of a true superfood, with Omega-3, -6, and -9 and GLA essential fatty acids, and they also taste really good.

“The four main raw products are hemp seeds, oil, protein and flour, and they can be used in everything from bakery products… to snack bars, breakfast cereals, ready meals, cooked sauces, salad dressings and more obvious products like that.”

Mr Benhaim said the key concern for government was whether the hemp foods would have any effect on roadside drug testing programs.

“A study has recently been completed, and it seems there is absolutely no effect on that… you could never get high from any of it, there are no intoxicating effects from hemp foods,” he said.

Hemp Foods Australia expects that legalisation will be granted on April 28, with hemp foods available for sale in Australia from November 2017 onwards.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with the rest of the world and take full advantage of this, especially with Hemp Food Australia being the largest manufacturer of hempseed products in the Southern Hemisphere,” Mr Benhaim said.

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