Hemp Seeds Delisted as Non-Narcotic for Foods and Drinks

Wirot Poonsuwan

Hemp Seeds Delisted as Non-Narcotic for Foods and Drinks

Hemp water, milk, chocolates and snacks will soon appear on the shelves of convenience stores all across Thailand as the Food and Drug Administration and the Ministry of Public Health are keen to urgently release this month new rules to materialize commercial and domestic use of hemp.

The new notifications are poised to ease restrictions on hemp seeds, hemp seed oil and protein from hemp seeds to be added to foods, drinks and food supplements commercially manufactured by the food and beverage industry in a bid to implement a cabinet resolution passed in January, touting hemp as a new economic crop.

Simultaneously, the public at large and Thai citizens will be able to mix hemp seeds and hemp seed oil into their tasty Pad Kaprao Kai (basil stir-fried with chicken) and Tom Yum Pla (spicy fish soup) at home and not worry about police asking awkward questions.

New Non-Narcotics Regulation in December 2020

In actuality, seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa, and hemp seed oil for commercialization under the Food Act of 1979 have been removed from the narcotics list since August 2019 under Notification No. 2 promulgated by the Ministry of Public Health under the Narcotics Act of 1979, but have been kept dormant and inactive until now.

Under Notification No. 2, the actual industrialization of hemp seeds and hemp seed oil in accordance with the Food Act never occurred. And any domestic consumption as food outside the Food Act would run counter to the purpose of the regulation, complexly leaving the hemp parts on the list as narcotics.

The master regulation in Notification No. 2 is being revamped to remove hemp seeds and hemp seed oil from the list of narcotics altogether, either for industrialization or domestic consumption.

A new notification under the Narcotics Act is forecast to be issued this month in place of Notification No. 2.

Non-narcotic hemp seeds under both notifications must be non-viable and dead seeds, incapable of reproducing.

Imports of non-viable hemp seeds and hemp seed oil are to be banned by the new notification indefinitely, not just during the first 5 years stated in Notification No. 2., while imports of live hemp seeds for planting and strain development will be permitted.

Food and Beverage Regulation under the Food Act

While offering new regulations to the Thai people as a New Year’s gift to relieve the painful effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, the FDA and the Ministry of Public Health are kept busy enacting another

notification under the Food Act to put into practice the commercial production of foods and drinks containing hemp seeds, hemp seed oil and protein from hemp seeds.

Subsequent to the new non-narcotics regulation and food and beverage regulation under the two different laws, these hemp raw materials, extremely low in psychoactive compounds, are to be treated as food ingredients as far as industrialized manufacturing of foods and drinks are concerned, increasing jobs in the labor market.

Domestic consumption permissible by the non-narcotics regulation will bring income and generate sales volumes of hemp seeds by growers backed by government agencies and universities with licenses to plant hemp, who sell live seeds to industrial companies licensed to convert them into dead seeds for sales to the general public.

The non-narcotics notification will be released in parallel with the food notification.

Commercial Hemp, Specially Controlled Foods

According to the food notification, foods, drinks and food supplements commercially produced that contain hemp seeds, hemp seed oil and protein from hemp seeds are defined as “specially controlled foods,” governed by quality and standards for production, imports and sales/distribution.

Proportions of ingredients in foods and drinks as well as colors, smells and tastes must be in compliance with the rules. The same applies to other materials mixed in the foods, to food containers, methods of production and food storage to prevent the foods from becoming impure. Restrictions on food inspection and analysis, package labeling and its display have also been ironed out.

Non-viable hemp seeds must contain a total tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound, the psychoactive chemical, that does not exceed a maximum of 5 milligrams per 1 kilogram of dried hemp seeds, and cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive substance, within a limit of 30 milligrams per 1 kilogram of dried hemp seeds, far more flexible than the THC.

Food labeling must not claim health benefits of the THC or CBD or their quantities in the food.

Producers of hemp seed oil and protein from hemp seeds as well as makers of food supplements containing hemp seeds must follow an established regulation on methods of production, production tools and equipment used in production and storage of food.

Hemp Seeds with Omega 3, Omega 6

In the event that the producer of hemp seed oil “kills” live hemp seeds to turn them into non-viable dead seeds, they also need a separate hemp possession license under the Narcotics Act.

Methods of producing hemp seed oil acceptable to the FDA include pressing and purifying by water, sediment settlement and centrifugal force.

Color, smell and taste of hemp seed oil must be natural, with no contamination. And no rancid smell.

Qualified hemp seed oil can only be used as ingredients of food supplements. Use in other foods must be pre-approved by the FDA independently.

The authorities view hemp seeds as healthy food filled with omega 3 and omega 6, similar to fish oil and sunflower seeds.

Labels of the food supplements must state the requisite wording to show how many milligrams of hemp seed oil that 1 capsule of the food supplement contains and the amounts in milligrams of gamma-linolenic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid – an omega 3 – and linoleic, a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid.

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