How safe are hemp-based food products? A review and risk assessment of analytical data from Germany
Article publication date: 28 June 2022
Issue publication date: 28 February 2023
Hemp-based food products and supplements have gained popularity within recent years in Europe. Apart from the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol, these products may also contain Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which can be of concern for safety and regulatory compliance. In the European Union, the currently accepted limit for THC in hemp is 0.3%. As many hemp-based products have been withdrawn from the German market within recent months/years, this study aims to investigate the current safety limit and potential concerns based on available analytical data.
Therefore, a publicly accessible, analytical data set from the German food authority was analysed and complemented by literature data and expert opinions regarding THC in food products. Furthermore, critical exposures have been calculated based on different product types and limits.
A safety-based limit of 11.9 µg/kg/day is proposed. Importantly, the authors’ examination of hemp seed oils, one of the most common food products, showed that 4 of the 102 samples were identified as having a low-to-moderate risk for inducing impairment – confirming the general need for regulation. For hemp leaf tea and common supplements, calculated exposures to THC were not considered critical. This has been also reflected by the absence of intoxication reports in the scientific literature.
Whilst for most hemp-derived foods safety concerns for the general public are considered low, this may not be the case for some products, suggesting the general need for regulatory compliance. Nevertheless, a more realistic safety limit should be applied.
Disclosure statement: No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Steinmetz, F.P., Nahler, G. and Wakefield, J.C. (2023), "How safe are hemp-based food products? A review and risk assessment of analytical data from Germany", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 53 No. 3, pp. 489-499. https://doi.org/10.1108/NFS-04-2022-0129
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