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European Commission Sets Standards for Hemp Food

European Commission, the region body charged with cannabis regulation across Europe, has published guidelines on the maximum amount of THC allowed in CBD-rich food products.

They are both two. The first, approved by the EC’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, says that THC levels for hempseed derived oil should be no greater than 7.5mg/kg. THC levels can’t exceed 3mg/kg for any dry foods that include hemp. This includes hemp seed oil, flour, and protein powder. 

This is an international standard. Canada established a limit of 10 mg/kg for oils and dry food. Switzerland’s limit is twice as high at 20mg/kg oil and 10mg/kg dry foods.

What does all this mean for the international hemp regulation world?

According to Kai-Friedrich Niermann, a German cannabis lawyer currently suing the government over regulations regarding the importation of hemp, “The decision of the European Commission was important and trend-setting for the European hemp sector. The EU has now adopted harmonized guidance values for the first-time. Thus, such cases as last year in August in Germany, when there was an extensive recall of completely safe hemp products, should be a thing of the past.”

Lorenza Romanese is the European Industrial Hemp Association’s Managing Director. This group represents the EU’s only lobbying organization with any real muscle in lobbying. “The EIHA welcomes the newly agreed levels. A flourishing market will only be an EU market based on common rules,” she said.  “Not a patchwork of 27 national legislations.”

Shifting Sands

All is not perfect. EIHA continues to be unhappy. While there are many reasons, most of them have to do the uncertainty that continues despite the announcement. Let’s find out why.

Labs which do analysis for official controls and checks must comply with rules on how to determine what is known as “measurement uncertainty.” The EC has not stated what those uncertainty values are. 

This causes a continuing hazard, which the new regulations do not address. A product will not be compliant if its level is clearly higher than the allowed maximum and the applicable wiggle space. Producors won’t be allowed to make a statement about what this delta means to protect any measurement that exceeds the permitted limits to the authorities.

According to the EIHA, this development “finally puts an end to the internal market fragmentation and will most likely give a further boost to the investment in the sector.”

While the transition period is granted to stakeholders, they will have time to adapt to new rules. They can sell their stock to do so. All EU member countries will be required to comply with the rules within 20 days of publication in the official journal.

Why Does This Work So Slowly?

There is a certain irony to the slow pace of the EC’s hemp policy. This is because, rather surprisingly given the snail’s pace of reform, the EC also has a policy stating that “hemp cultivation contributes to the European Green New Deal objectives. It includes the crops’ ability to store carbon and prevent soil erosion. 

Another reason all this irony is because France is, at 70%, is the biggest producer of hemp within the EU, followed by the Netherlands (10%) and Austria (14%). This is also the country where the most effective legal actions at the EU level have so far taken place — and further where the most ferocious battles about regulation of the industry have occurred. This is evident in the court fight to permit the sale of whole hemp flowers, and not only extracts.

But one thing is clear. This means that France is now leading the charge in setting country-specific policies, and not Germany. These policies are also influential on other countries, and even influencing EU decisions. Germany is currently working on a case to implement the EU rules in its domestic affairs. This case was also inspired by the Kanavape French case.

The days of hemp farmers not following any formal guidelines, are over. It’s now on to the next battle.