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Europe’s Proposed New ‘Safe’ Levels Of THC In Hemp & CBD Products Are ‘Unacceptable’ and ‘Unnecessarily’ Low

NEWLY-proposed ‘safety’ levels of THC in European hemp and CBD food products have been condemned as ‘unacceptable, unnecessarily low, and not supported by scientific evidence’.

In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stipulated a minuscule maximum THC daily intake of 1μg (microgram) per kilogram of bodyweight (bw) in foodstuffs.

While Member States and the Commission are now proposing new maximum values – up to 7.5mg/kg (ppm) for hemp seed oil and 3.5mg/kg (ppm) for dry food – it is still not going far enough, says the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA).

EIHA has countered the new proposed levels with ones of its own which suggest lifting the upper limit on hemp seed oil – derived from the seeds and the flowers – to a maximum level of 20mg/kg (ppm) of Delta-9 THC.

This comes as the Irish Food Standards Authority, this weekend, issued an urgent product recall of a number of CBD supplements currently stocked in Irish stores due to ‘unsafe’ levels THC.

To Be Adopted Within Months

Lorenza Romanese, Managing Director of the EIHA, told BusinessCann: “EFSA’s existing limit values are extremely strict and outdated. They are based on inaccurate guideline values which have been used for far too many years.

“For decades EIHA has been advocating for a harmonised and scientifically-based approach on THC levels in food at EU level. 

“While we are pleased to see the European Commission move to adopt binding limits for THC in foodstuffs all over Europe, including 7.5mg per kg (ppm) THC for hemp seed oil, we still believe this does not go far enough.”

In a press release EIHA describes these new guidelines as ‘unnecessarily low, not supported by scientific evidence and unacceptable’.

The EC is expected to adopt these new guidelines before the end of the year, and once in place they will bring Europe into line with other jurisdictions such as North America and Australia. 

However, EIHA continues to press for the higher upper limit of 10mg in dry food and 20mg in oil derived from seeds which will bring Europe in line with Canada.

EIHA has raised further concerns over the inclusion of non-intoxicating Delta 9 THC acid in the total THC value proposed by EFSA.

In order to establish clear guidelines for THC levels in hemp and CBD products EIHA is to launch its own trial involving 200 human participants by the end of the year

Ms Romanese added: “It needs to be stated that, even based on these outdated recommendation values, nothing stands in the way of the marketability and product safety of products such as hemp seed oil.”

Food derived from hemp naturally contains traces of the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (delta9-THC), which remains in the food even after the most careful cleaning process. 

Real-World Difficulties 

Evidence of the impacts of Europe’s punitive rules emerged last month when Lidl in Germany recalled all hemp products and warned customers about their consumption, due to an alleged high-level of THC. 

In early 2020,  a report from EFSA looked at THC levels in 12 different categories of hemp foods, including hemp oil, breads and teas. 

More than 1,500 samples were collected from the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Romania. The report concluded that THC levels in people ingesting large amounts of hemp products could exceed its safety threshold for THC and potentially lead to effects on the central nervous system and an increased heart rate.

Also, in early 2020, a Daily Mail investigation found that a bottle of Jacob Hooy CBD oil on sale in a UK Holland & Barrett showed levels of 12.4mg of THC – more than 12 times the UK legal limit of 1mg per pack.

A Jacob Hooy oil was included in the Irish Food Safety Authority product recall ordered over the weekend of September 18/19.

Following the Daily Mail investigation the Royal Pharmaceutical Society wrote to the UK Home Secretary calling for ‘clear guidance on the permissible level of psychoactive THC in CBD oils’.

Earlier this year the Home Office ordered a review to be conducted by the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs, which could lead to rise in the permissible levels of trace THC in UK hemp and CBD products – albeit at levels far lower than those proposed by the EC or EIHA.

BusinessCann has asked the European Commission press team responsible for Health and Food Safety for a comment on this and is awaiting a response.

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