Hemp Seed Food Products Illegal in New Zealand?

17 January 2014

Our Managing Director and co-founder Marion Wood addresses the current debate around hemp seed food products being sold in New Zealand.

We have recently had to pull our hemp seed food products including hemp protein powder and hemp milk, a very popular and nutritious alternative to cow’s milk.  Strangely, hemp seed oil is not included in the ban (it's been sold in New Zealand for 12 years).

Why the ban on hemp seed food products in New Zealand?

We were aware that Food Standards Australia New Zealand had approved the sale of hemp seed products and we believed this was where the legal decision lay (as did our suppliers).  We have now been informed that the approval was reversed by the Food Ministers of Australia and New Zealand.  The reason they give is "The use of low THC hemp in food may undermine drug reduction strategies by contributing to a public perception that low levels of cannabis are acceptable and safe to consume."

This is bizarre. 

Hemp seed still legally grown in NZ

Hemp seed products are grown in New Zealand with no apparent concerns.  What is even more peculiar is that they are then exported and legally sold as food for humans in other countries including USA, UK, Canada and many European nations.  Are we to believe that New Zealanders are less intelligent and unable to distinguish between hemp products and cannabis?

Hemp seeds do not contain THC

Any contamination of hemp seeds with THC arises from the calyx of the plant which is the part surrounding the seed.  This can be largely or totally removed by appropriate washing and processing of the seeds.  For example the hemp protein powder which was mistakenly sold for human consumption contained no THC at all.  The other reason given for the Ministers to overturn the approval was that low THC hemp food products may affect oral and urine drug testing for cannabis.  There does not appear to be any evidence of this in any of the countries where hemp seed products are sold for human consumption and Food Standards ANZ consider it unlikely because of the very low levels of THC in the food products.

We want to offer nutritious food

This decision matters to Commonsense because we are in the business of selling good, nutritious and safe food to people.  Many of our customers have allergies and hemp seed products provide alternatives for them that offer good quality protein and many vitamins and minerals.  Hemp seed products are also good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3. 

Have your opinion heard

Commonsense congratulates Food Standards ANZ for the careful and thoughtful approach they have taken in recommending that the sale of low THC hemp be approved.  We would also urge you to read their approval report (Application A1039) which gives an excellent summary of their reasons for recommending sales of hemp foods be legal. 

We now call upon the politicians to use their common sense and support this change.

Some of our customers have asked what they can do to help change the situation.  If you are disappointed that we are unable to sell hemp seed products as food for humans, you may like to contact the Minister for Food Safety, Nikki Kaye, mp.aucklandcentral@parliament.govt.nz.  If you email Nikki Kaye, it would be a good idea to copy the email to your local MP.


For more handy info and food inspiration follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Don't forget to sign up for our e-newsletter for specials, new products, articles and more delivered right to your inbox!