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European Food Safety Authority Warns that Eating Hemp Foods Can Cause Elevated THC Levels if Ingested in High Quantities

  • On January 7, 2020, a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report looked at tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in 12 different categories of hemp foods, including hemp oil, breads and teas.  EFSA also reviewed THC levels in foods, like cereals, pasta, chocolate, and beer.  More than 1,500 samples were collected from countries, such as Romania, Czech Republic, Germany, and Italy.

  • In its report, EFSA noted that THC levels in people ingesting large amounts of hemp products could exceed a safety threshold for THC in food, which could potentially lead to effects on the central nervous system and an increased heart rate.  The report noted that little is known about the number of people eating hemp products or how much those people may be consuming.

  • In the European Union (EU), varieties of hemp that are cultivated and used for feed must be listed in the EU’s ‘Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species’. Although the EU allows some varieties of hemp to be used in food, it limits the amount of THC.  According to Regulation (EU) No 1307/20131, the maximum content of THC in these varieties is limited to 0.2 %.  THC is currently not regulated under any EU regulation for food; however, member states, like Italy and Germany have set their own regulations governing THC.

  • The European report called for additional studies, and the authors stated that THC testing in food is far from exact as “there is documented uncertainty with the exact quantification of THC in food due to analytical methods, extraction efficiency as well as in relation to conversions related to food processing.”  We will continue to monitor any developments.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 23


About this Author

Keller and Heckman offers global food and drug services to its clients. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. We promote, protect, and defend products made by the spectrum of industries regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and Member States authorities in the European Union (EU) and similar authorities throughout the world. The products we help get to market include foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. In addition...