Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation Communiqué 31 March 2016

Communiqué of outcomes from the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation teleconference held on 31 March 2016

Page last updated: 21 November 2016

Australian Ministers and the New Zealand Minister responsible for food regulation met by teleconference today to discuss the latest updates on investigations in relation to low THC hemp as a food and an extension of time to review of the decision to allow the voluntary addition of vitamin D to certain breakfast cereal.

The special meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation chaired by the Australian Government Minister for Rural Health, Senator Fiona Nash, considered the latest report from the Food Regulation Standing Committee on the research projects underway in relation to low THC hemp. These covered marketing and labelling issues, legal and Treaty implications and maximum levels of cannabidiol (CBD) to address information gaps identified in considering the adoption of low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hemp as a food.

At the 30 January 2015 Forum meeting Minister’s formally rejected the draft variation to Standard 1.4.4 – Prohibited and Restricted Plants and Fungi to permit the sale of foods derived from the seeds and seed products of low-THC hemp, resulting from a commercial application. The variation was rejected due to ongoing concerns Ministers had including law enforcement issues, particularly from a policing perspective in relation to roadside drug testing, cannabidiol levels as well as that the marketing of hemp in food may send a confusing message to consumers about the acceptability and safety of cannabis.

The Forum requested that the Food Regulation Standing Committee, as a matter of priority, address a number of information gaps in relation to the adoption of low-THC hemp as a food.

At today’s teleconference Forum members noted an update on the project that is investigating whether the consumption of low-THC hemp as a food could result in a false positive result in any of the roadside drug testing programs currently in use in Australia and in New Zealand. This study is critical to considering whether to permit low-THC hemp as a food and its outcomes will be considered at a future face to face meeting of the Forum, most likely towards the end of the year.

Members acknowledged that there is also a range of Commonwealth, New Zealand and State and Territory legislation that currently prohibits the sale of low-THC hemp as a food which would have to be amended before low-THC hemp could be sold as a food. Members agreed that while the other issues are continuing to be investigated each jurisdiction will undertake an extensive audit of their respective legislation.

The Forum noted that at this stage there was no formal proposal to permit low-THC hemp as a food and so Members agreed to task Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to begin work on developing a draft proposal on how, if it was considered appropriate, low-THC hemp could be legally designated as a food.

FSANZ will be provided with the findings of the completed projects and associated policy guidance and will be asked to consider the European Union approach in considering a low-THC limit in food. FSANZ will follow the legislated process that includes a risk analysis and stakeholder consultation and provide their proposal, when ready, to the Forum for consideration.

Chair of the Forum, Senator Nash, emphasised no decision had yet been made to sell low THC hemp as a food and that these exploratory actions were designed to provide the Forum Members with the very best information in a more timely manner, so that they can make a fully informed decision about such a proposal in due course.

The Forum Members also agreed to a request by the FSANZ Board to extend the time period to complete a review of the decision to allow the voluntary addition of vitamin D to certain breakfast cereal arising from a commercial application until 21 October 2016.

The Forum agreed to a clarification statement for the Policy Guideline for the Fortification of Food with Vitamins and Minerals during a meeting in November 2015. The FSANZ Board has asked for the extension to allow more time to take full account of the new clarification statement.

Next Meeting
The next face to face meeting of the Ministerial Forum is currently scheduled for 10 June 2016 in Darwin.

Media enquiries: Kay McNiece 0412 132 585

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