Unfair treatment of hemp as food (Finland / EU)
Hemp, CBD oils and other CBD products have a special legal status in Finland and the EU, as the plant still faces prejudice and more unfair and illogical treatment than other plants used as food.
Hemp operators had to resume defending hemp as a traditional food in 2019 when the European Commission’s Working Party on Novel Foods (PAFF) proposed illogical and illegal changes to the novel food status of hemp. The proposed changes would overturn a final decision of the same working group in 1998 regarding hemp and the use of the whole plant as food.
What is a novel food regulation?
Novel food means any food that has not been used for human consumption to a significant degree within the Union before 15. May 1997.
The Novel Food Regulation (EC) No 258/97 was originally created to prevent the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the Member States of the European Union without proper testing (1). It was not created to prevent the use of traditional foods in the EU.
The Novel Food Regulation, which entered into force in May 1997, has two purposes. Firstly, it aims to create an efficient and coherent market for EU Member States. Secondly, the regulation is intended to protect human health and the interests of consumers (2).
In practice, however, the Novel Food Regulation, after restricting the entry of GMOs into Europe, has focused on protecting the citizens of the Member States from novel foods, as the name implies.
Citizens are being protected from, for example, cigarette butts, which were blocked from being sold as food shortly after they were placed on the market. The bagel was then sold as a cosmetic product until it was officially approved as a novel food.
Before entering the consumer’s table, the safety of novel foods must be assessed. The safety is assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the marketing authorization is granted by a Commission decision. Authorization shall be granted on application, which shall include a statement on the safety of the product in accordance with mutually agreed conditions (2).
Foods traditionally used and found to be safe in third countries may be placed on the market through a simplified notification procedure (2).
Mention of hemp in the list of novel foods
Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is known for its historical use as a food, medicine and textile raw material.
In the 1990s, hemp was still a traditional food in Finland and Europe, until the entry into force of the Novel Food Ordinance in 1997. Following the regulation, the European Commission asked the hemp industry for the first time to provide evidence of the food use of hemp.
At the request of Hanfgesellschaft, the Nova Institute collected the evidence for the Commission’s consideration. In February and March 1998, the Commission wrote to hemp food business operators confirming that hemp blossoms were considered to be traditional food ingredients. In addition, two separate letters from the Commission stated that hemp as a whole plant with its flowers, leaves and seeds would not be covered by Regulation (EC) No 258/97. (3)
But what happened when the hemp boom, the demand and sales of hemp blooms and CBD products, exploded globally?
Changes to the list of novel foods concerning hemp
January 15 The European Commission amended the list of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) and CBD (Cannabidiol) in the list of novel foods by adding cannabinoids (Cannabinoid).
As a result of the amendment, all extracts of hemp containing cannabinoids are considered to be novel foods and are claimed to require a novel food authorization. With the new listing, hemp seeds, hemp flour and hemp oil would still be allowed without a separate permit.
While a change in the list of novel foods is not legally binding, this kind of illogical and illegal recording of unnecessary annoyance and waste of resources for authorities and businesses.
The change is also completely illogical, because why does a plant that was previously known to be a traditional food and whose use is legally approved suddenly need further research? (3)
Secondly, it is very illogical to be concerned about the safety of hemp blooms and cannabinoids, when only a year earlier the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an official statement on the safety of the CBD.
Anyway, concerns about “limited” research on hemp cannabinoids are completely illogical, as blueberry polyphenols, for example, and their effects have been studied far less than cannabinoids.
EIHA (European Industrial Hemp Association) also wonders how it is possible that, for hemp, the use found in third countries is not valid for the PAFF as evidence of traditional use, even if it is sufficient for other plants.
Each of us finds foods in large supermarkets, such as kaffiri limes or galang roots, that did not have a significant history of use in Europe before May 15, 1997. Why is hemp not covered by the simplified notification procedure?
The Commission’s previous inclusion in the list of novel foods of the use of hemp leaves and inflorescences was largely based on Asian soups and teas.
Following a decision in 1998, food business operators invested in the hemp sector. That decision should now be maintained and enable European and Finnish players to compete in this welfare market created by hemp. (3)
Hemp extracts, or CBD oils, are not novel foods
Hemp extracts, or CBD oils, cannot be novel foods either, as all the methods used in the industry are traditional food extraction methods.
The word extract is derived from the Latin word “extrahere” (pull, remove) and refers to any method that uses an extractant (solid, liquid or gaseous).
Today, there are four main extraction methods in Europe for the production of hemp extracts, or CBD products.
Cold pressing: The simplest method used by humans for centuries to mechanically press hemp inflorescences, leaves and / or seeds without heating.
Ethanol extraction: The use of alcohol to soak inflorescences and leaves and to transfer active substances into solution. Also used for centuries.
CO2 Extraction: The use of supercritical carbon dioxide to extract inflorescences and leaves. In addition to ethanol extractions, CO2 extraction is an extraction method permitted for foodstuffs in accordance with Annex I to EU Directive 2009/32 / EC. CO2 extraction is the most common method of extracting CBD oils.
Fat Extraction: An easy-to-use extraction method used by the Italian Tortelli to extract hemp inflorescences as early as 1884 in her cookbook.(feminiini)
Today, there are complementary food methods approved by the EU, such as distillation, to obtain a final product “purified” from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). That is, a product in which there are no more natural THC residues.
Hemp extracts can also be left raw or decarboxylated to remove THC levels, respectively. In raw hemp, THC is in the form of acidic THC-A. THC-A is not psychoactive at all, meaning it is not intoxicating. In hemp, the natural ratio of CBD to THC is about 20: 1 to 25: 1.
In the EU, industrial hemp can contain up to 0.2% THC, the only psychoactive cannabinoid in hemp and cannabis. Residues of THC are also present in, for example, hemp seed oil. THC concentrations must also always be analyzed separately by the authorities, not as a sum. Since THC-A (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is not psychoactive, it should not be added to the THC content.
EIHA will ensure that the hemp sector is allowed to flourish in Europe as well
EIHA, the European hemp industry, has made sure that the hemp industry continues to thrive in Europe. EIHA was asked on 13. to present its views on the amendments to the list of novel foods for hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) to the March meeting of the PAFF Committee. EIHA provided relevant and accurate evidence showing that hemp leaves and flowers were used to a significant extent in Europe before May 1997.
It is also important to note that due to the war on drugs, hemp was almost completely eradicated during the 20th century and has only slowly reappeared in the 1980s. As a result, much of the evidence points to historical sources.
These sources show that hemp was a major crop across Europe, making hemp products ranging from ropes to clothing, paper, building materials and food (hemp seed oil, leaves and inflorescences).
Interestingly, for example, the world’s oldest cookbook, De Honesta Voluptate, lists a health drink recipe that is almost identical to today’s hemp extract recipes. And the fact that evidence has been found of the use of hemp flowers in the production of tortellini soup in Italian monasteries.
Hemp oil and hemp seeds were a staple food for centuries. In the old days, there was no modern cleaning and separation technology, so it is clear that the inflorescences were used as such with their seeds, inflorescences, leaves, everything.
It is undeniable that hemp has been in the human food chain for millennia, so it is deceptive to claim that the leaves and flowers in the food are new.
- Fimea, Kannabidiolia (CBD) valvotaan lääkkeenä Suomessa. https://www.fimea.fi/-/kannabidiolia-cbd-valvotaan-laakkeena-suomessa referred to 4.10.2021
- Carter CA, Gruère GP, 2003. “Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods: Does it Really Provide Consumer Choice?”. AgBioForum – referred to 26.7.2019
- Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 1997 concerning novel foods and novel food ingredients – referred to 26.7.2019
- European Industrial Hemp Association 19-05-02 PRESS RELEASE: http://eiha.org/media/2019/05/PRESS-NOTES-Status-of-Hemp-Extracts-in-Europe.pdf – referred to 26.7.2019