After years of rejection, state and federal health ministers in Australia have concluded that hemp is safe to eat. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand approved of the decision to lift the ban on hemp in March when they determined that hemp contained acceptable levels of THC. Health food shops have been dodging existing rules by sneaking hemp into moisturizers and body scrubs, but it looks as though hemp producers may soon be able to sell it for human consumption outright.
Hemp seeds for the win
A communique from health ministers at the Forum of Food Regulation said on Friday,
The 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 a food which will need to be amended.
The decision will legalize hemp seeds and allow for tpersonal and professional use of hemp. Hemp had previously been approved for “external use only” but once it’s amended, it’s possible that restaurants will begin adding hemp to pastries, smoothies, confections and much more.
Chief executive of Hemp Foods Australia, Paul Benhaim is happy about the decision as he has advocated for hemp’s legalization for 17 years.
We’re talking with supermarkets, juice shops, delicatessens about using hemp seeds in all sorts of products from bread to drinks.
Selling hemp as food will be a major boom for his business. He is expecting his numbers to quadruple within the upcoming year. “In five years’ time, hemp could be as common as soy, chia and flaxseed because it’s nutritious.”
Health ministers change their tune
Health ministers had been rejecting amendments to the Food Standards Code since 2002, due to fears that hemp’s THC would impact roadside drug testing and soften their stance on drugs.
They changed course after a Swinburne University study found that the consumption of low-THC plants like hemp was highly unlikely to result in positive drug test readings.
Ultimately, they’ve found that the low levels of THC found in industrial hemp weren’t enough to continue with such a stringent ruling. Behhaim says,
You can smoke a whole field of industrial hemp and not get high, maybe a headache.
Levels of THC found in industrial hemp are at a low .03 percent, compared with marijuana which can contain up to 30 percent.
The latest superfood
It didn’t hurt that hemp seeds were also found to be a nutritional powerhouse. Hemp seeds are a great source of protein (a tablespoon contains 11 grams of protein) vitamins, minerals and fatty acids like omega-3. Dieticians Association of Australia spokesman
Hemp seed is also an easy way of getting more omega-3 fat into the diet – this fat helps reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and may help protect against heart disease.
Hemp seeds are already labeled as a super food in many international markets such as Canada, Germany and Japan and grosses around $1 billion annually.