EU-wide adoption of max THC limits in hemp seed foods a ‘significant win for sector’

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Maximum levels have been set at 3.0mg/kg for dry products (flour, proteins, seeds, snacks) and 7.5mg/kg for hemp seed oil. GettyImages/ollo
Maximum levels have been set at 3.0mg/kg for dry products (flour, proteins, seeds, snacks) and 7.5mg/kg for hemp seed oil. GettyImages/ollo

Related tags: EIHA, hemp, THC

Maximum levels of Delta-9-THC in hemp seeds and hemp oil have been established across the bloc, putting an ‘end’ to ‘internal market fragmentation’, according to the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA).

Following a positive opinion from the Standing Committee for Foodstuffs, the European Commission will amend Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 concerning the maximum levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9-THC) in hemp seeds and products derived therefrom.

THC is the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis and responsible for the ‘high’.

According to the Commission’s amendment, the maximum levels have been set at 3.0mg/kg for dry products (flour, proteins, seeds, snacks) and 7.5mg/kg for hemp seed oil.

‘An end to internal market fragmentation’

Prior to the amendment, there was no EU-wide maximum limit. As the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) explained, there were ‘only’ guidelines from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) from 2015, which were not legally binding.

“No harmonised limits [means it is] impossible for operators to trade,” ​EIHA’s managing director Lorenza Romanese told FoodNavigator.

As the EU had no common values until this week, countries like Italy had adopted ‘even stricter’ values (2ppm in dry food and 5ppm in oil), she explained. “In Belgium, the approach was different. They had higher values. This would have meant Belgium would have to comply with Italy and any other Member States.”

This week’s amendment means that all Member States will have to follow common values, which EIHA said will drive consistency across the EU and create a stable and more attractive market for investors.

“This initiative finally puts an end to the internal market fragmentation and will likely give a further boost to investment in the sector,” ​noted the lobby group.

No fixed measurement uncertainty

For EIHA, the legislation is ‘long awaited’. The lobby’s group ‘biggest target’ is the creation of a Single Market for hemp and its derived products, Romanese explained, “and the Single Market has to be established on common rules”.

Although EIHA had requested higher values, it said it would support and endorse the Commission’s proposals on maximum levels for THC in food on the condition of a clear and official regulation on measurement uncertainties.

The Standing Committee fixed a measurement uncertainty of between 40-50%, but further guidelines from the Commission should follow, we were told.

‘Disappointed’ EIHA said this ‘continues to lead to ambiguity and uncertainty in the market’. “Now every FBO must constantly explain and defend the measurement uncertainty to authorities.”

EIHA is asking for a measurement uncertainty up to 50% and the concept of non-compliance only if the test result is beyond reasonable doubt above the maximum level.

Far-reaching benefits

The benefits of this amended regulation, according to EIHA’s Romanese, is far-reaching.

“Processing companies will benefit, as it was up to them to manage the THC levels per country,” ​she explained.

Food businesses will also benefit, because they will be working within a ‘clear framework’, rather than ’27 different approaches’.

And finally, Romanese stressed, consumers will be able to access these products everywhere in the EU with the same THC contents.

The rules will be applicable to all Member States 20 days following the publication of the regulation and its annexes on the Official Journal.

A transition period will be put in place before the new maximum levels are enforced, allowing for existing stock to be used and sold.

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