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EU hemp industry welcomes novel foods update but Sweden refuses to give green light

Article-EU hemp industry welcomes novel foods update but Sweden refuses to give green light

© iStock/South_agency Hemp industry welcomes novel foods update but Sweden refuses to give green light
The European hemp industry is celebrating an amendment of the novel food regulation that will allow hemp leaves to be used in herbal tea in the EU. But Sweden says it will continue to classify the plant as a narcotic.

After months of discussion, EU member states last week reached an agreement on a proposal, put forward by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), affirming that hemp leaves are not considered novel for herbal infusion.

EIHA president Daniel Kruse said: “This is a significant achievement for our sector, clearly demonstrating that a collective industry effort is essential for normalising the hemp plant and its products.

“For many years, EIHA has been engaged in discussions with the EU Institutions and Member States on the novel food legislation. We are pleased that scientific evidence and historical facts have prevailed over prejudice.

Herbal tea brewed from hemp leaves ‘is a traditional food’

The amendment was made to the Novel Food Catalogue – in which hemp leaves refer to leaves from Cannabis sativa L. from varieties listed in the EU's common variety list of species of agricultural plants – after a working group concluded that tea brewed from hemp leaves and water should be considered a traditional food.

EIHA said the decision aligned with its long-standing position that hemp leaves should be explicitly exempt from the catalogue, adding that the new entry also gives more detail on other hemp products that are excluded from the scope of the regulation.

The amendment will take immediate effect unless decided otherwise at national level.

Such teas are already on the market in some EU countries. For example, Netherlands-based company Dutch Harvest sells blends including Sleepy Hemp, which contains hemp leaves and flowers alongside aniseed, chamomile, hops, mallow, valerian, and lavender, while French company Thés et Traditions includes hemp infusions within its product range.

Amendment ‘will bring much-needed legal certainty

To support its request, the industry body submitted evidence from several member states demonstrating that hemp leaves have a proven history of consumption within the EU, particularly as aqueous infusions, prior to 1997.

© iStock/Creative-FamilyHemp industry welcomes novel foods update but Sweden refuses to give green light

It says the change of status is also in line with the 1961 Single Convention, which explicitly exempts hemp leaves.

Lorenza Romanese, EIHA managing director, added: “This is indeed very welcome news, and we are thrilled to have contributed to its realisation. These changes will bring much-needed legal certainty, eliminating any doubts surrounding the open marketing of hemp seed-derived food and leaves for water infusion throughout Europe.

“We sincerely hope that this positive and constructive engagement will prevent operators in many EU countries from suffering from misleading interpretation, seizures, and unnecessary administrative requirements.”

Sweden to continue to classify hemp products as narcotics

However, despite the EU ruling, Sweden said such products may instead be covered by its drug legislation.

In a statement, the country’s medicines agency highlighted that drug legislation is not harmonised within the EU, meaning that in some member states, tea brewed from hemp leaves and water is considered to be a permitted food, while in others it may be considered a drug.

“The Swedish Medicines Agency is the competent authority according to the Act on the Control of Narcotic Drugs,” it said.The Swedish Medicines Agency's assessment is that Swedish drug legislation may become applicable to hemp leaf products and hemp leaf water infusions.

“This is because these can be considered narcotic preparations if they contain THC (regardless of amount) and at the same time constitute a solution, mixture or are divided into ready-to-consume doses/portions.

It added: A change in the Novel Food Catalogue does not mean a change in the legislation.