Australian and New Zealand health ministers supported a draft standard at a Forum on Food Regulation, held April 28, that will allow low-THC hemp seeds to be legally sold as food.
The action appears to back a report by the Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne regarding consumption of low THC foods and the effect on random drug testing protocols in Australia and New Zealand (the Consumption Report).
However, after a decade-long battle, there's still a long way to go before Australian organic and sustainable farmers, processors, and retailers, and consumers may see the legal sale of hemp as food on retail shelves.
"Ministers noted the key finding of the Consumption Report is that it is highly unlikely that consumption of food products containing the levels of THC tested would result in any positive tests on oral fluid, blood or urine," a statement said.
The draft standard will take effect six months after it has been gazetted and Ministers acknowledged that there is still a range of New Zealand and State and Territory legislation that currently prohibits the sale of low-THC hemp seeds as food which will need to be amended.
Apart from hemp seed oil, apparently sold for cosmetic purposes, the sale of hemp-based foods is currently illegal in Australia, while it's being used in product ingredients. And it's not illegal to grow industrial hemp in some states.
Food regulator Food Standard Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has approved hemp products as food as being safe, and the agency's principal advisor for product safety standards, Dr. Leigh Henderson says the regulator has carefully considered its ruling on hemp-derived foods.
And, before hemp can be sold as food in Australia, it will need the approval of state and territory governments, which could be given at the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
But, Greens upper house MP in the state of New South Wales, Jeremy Buckingham is not as confident that COAG will approve hemp products as food.
Mr. Buckingham said that resistance to the legalization of hemp-derived foods had come from health and police ministers in Victoria and New South Wales raising concerns about hemp's interaction with road-side drug testing.
"All over the world people are rushing into this industry, and Australia is missing out because our politicians are stuck in the 20th Century," he said.