EUROPE’S decision to establish a new maximum level of THC in hemp food products will prompt a surge of investment, says the industry’s leading trade group.
Companies operating in the 27 Member States of the European Union have been hamstrung by an excessively strict reference dose of a maximum level of Delta-9 THC in seed products of 1 mg/kg/bw (body weight) since 2015.
This European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommendation has led to numerous cross-border cargoes being seized and destroyed by customs officers across the EU – suppressing the appetite of the larger food companies.
However, following petitioning by the industry led by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) the European Commission (EC) has fixed the permitted level of Delta-9 THC to 3 mg/kg for dry products – flour, proteins, seeds, snacks – and 7.5 mg/kg for hempseed oil.
‘Investment Boost For Sector’
At a time when plant-based products are rapidly increasing in popularity the European Commission’s decision to significantly raise the THC limits is welcome, says Daniel Kruse, EIHA President.
“This long-awaited piece of legislation is a significant win for our industry and the EIHA has been a strong advocate for this change for almost ten years.
“EIHA also contributed with sound scientific facts to the stakeholder consultation of the European Commission in 2020. It will greatly help our members and all food business operators wishing to work with hemp seed derived products, such as hemp seed oil.”
Lorenza Romanese Managing Director of EIHA, added: “All Member States will have to follow common values, driving consistency across the EU and creating a stable and more attractive market for investors.
“These values will be applicable for dry food derived from seeds and hemp seeds oil and will be mandatory for all Member States.
“As many consumers across Europe and the world look for alternatives to meat this initiative finally puts an end to the internal market fragmentation and will most likely deliver a further significant boost to the investment in the sector.”
The new regulations also deliver some wriggle room for the industry with an additional leeway of 50% added to the maximum THC level due to what is classed by the EC as ‘measurement uncertainty’.
With this applied, the upper limits of Delta-9-THC are raised to between 4.2 to 4.5 mg/kg for dry products and 10.50 to 11.25 mg/kg for oil.
In the run up to the decision EIHA was pushing for higher permitted THC values with EFSA’s guidance being too low and some member states imposing their own levels.
Ms Romanese added: “With the measurement uncertainty levels included we have achieved a higher and more reasonable total content of Delta-9-THC in hemp seed products.”
The decision to update the guidance was made yesterday following a positive opinion of the Standing Committee for Foodstuffs, on Wednesday February 23 pertaining to the EC amended Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006.
While there are no valid figures for the size of the European hemp seed market the global market was valued at valued at $710.7m in 2019 and is projected to reach $1,634.6m by 2027.
These new THC limits apply solely to hemp-seed derived food products, whilst similar discussions are taking place in relation to the levels of THC in CBD food supplement products these are being dealt with separately under the Novel Food regulations
Ms Romanese added: “Piece by piece, we are achieving a true single hemp market for Europe. We will continue in this direction and do our best to make life easier for hemp farmers and processors.”
Alex Arkentis, CEO & Co-founder at Canxchange also welcomed the news. He said: “Having the level of THC for food products at the appropriate level will unlock a number of business opportunities.
“It will be easier to manage ingredients that are deemed ‘safe’ for food products, and the higher the level gets increased, more and more products will become accepted.
“Manufacturers will also have an easier time sourcing ingredients as the increase in THC gives access to more varieties that can be used. It will also improve the quality of the food as ingredients with higher THC wont need to be washed down to lower THC levels, preserving the natural state of the plant.”