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Hemp seeds as food

(April 2017)

Proposal to permit foods derived from hemp

In April 2017 ministers responsible for food regulation considered FSANZ's approval of a proposal to permit the sale of low-THC hemp foods. Ministers did not seek a review of the decision. This means the Food Standards Code will be amended to permit the sale of low THC foods. However the changes will not come into effect until six months after the change is gazetted. Gazettal is expected to occur in mid-may so the changes will come into effect in November.
Until the changes come into effect the sale of low-THC hemp products is not permitted in Australia and New Zealand.
The six month period gives jurisdictions time to amend respective legislation which is required to support the legal sale of
low-THC hemp seed foods in Australia and New Zealand. 


Hemp or industrial hemp is a cannabis plant species (Cannabis sativa). Historically, hemp has been used as a source of fibre and oil. Hemp seeds and oil are used in other countries, including in Europe, Canada and the United States of America, in a range of foods. Hemp seeds contain protein, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids.

Cannabis extracts have also been used in medicine for a variety of ailments. However hemp does not have therapeutic effects because it has low levels of cannabidiol, the active component of cannabis extracts used for medicinal purposes.

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

Hemp is cultivated worldwide, including in Australia and New Zealand (under strict licensing arrangements) and is currently used in Australia and New Zealand as a source of fibre for clothing and building products.

Previous applications to permit foods derived from hemp

FSANZ has previously assessed two applications to permit the sale of low-THC hemp seeds and hemp seed products as foods (Application A360Use of industrial Hemp as a Novel Food and Application A1039Low-THC Hemp as a Food). Both were rejected by ministers responsible for food regulation (the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation).
Ministers were concerned that the availability of hemp seed foods may send a confused message to consumers about the acceptability and safety of illicit cannabis and pose problems for drug enforcement agencies.
In January 2015, when the Forum formally rejected the second application ministers asked the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) to do further work to consider enforcement, roadside drug testing and hemp marketing issues. In March 2016 ministers noted the final FRSC reports on these issues. They also noted that the results of a study into the effects on roadside drug testing would be critical to considering whether to permit the sale of low-THC hemp seed foods. In October 2016 ministers were advised the final report evaluating the impact of the consumption of low-THC hemp as a food on random drug testing protocols would be completed in early 2017. 

More information

Communiques from the Forum on Food Regulation can be found on the food regulation website



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