Cannabis, Hemp extracts and Cannabinoids as foodstuffs

Foodstuffs containing hemp extracts or cannabinoids (such as CBD) are also becoming increasingly popular in Switzerland. Fundamentally, however, cannabinoids and hemp extracts are novel foodstuffs, which is why they may not be added at will to foodstuffs.

 

Whosoever places foodstuffs containing hemp extracts or cannabinoids on the market or wants to use them as a food ingredient must consider whether these foodstuffs are considered to be novel foods. This would be the case if it were not possible to prove that the foodstuff was already consumed to a significant degree prior to 15 May 1997 in Switzerland or in the EU.

It should also be noted that parts of the hemp plant contain the cannabinoid THC. Consumption of this substance leads to psychoactive effects. Therefore, maximum contents that may not be exceeded are defined in the Contaminants Ordinance (ContO). In addition, products produced from hemp must not fall under the Therapeutic Products Act (FTPA) if they are intended to be authorised as foodstuffs.

Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.): Not a novel foodstuff

The following products produced from cannabis sativa seeds are not considered to be novel foodstuffs:

  • Hemp seeds;
  • Hemp seed oil;
  • Hemp seed flour;
  • defatted hemp seed.

For these products it could be proved that they were already used as foodstuffs in the EU prior to 15 May 1997. Accordingly, they are not subject to authorisation.

The following applies for cannabis sativa tea:
In Switzerland, herbal tea produced from leaves of the hemp plant is fundamentally considered not to be a novel foodstuff. Whosoever wants to produce, import or place on the market herbal teas extracted from the herb must furnish proof that the herbal tea was already consumed as a foodstuff to a significant degree prior to 15 May 1997, and therefore not be classified as a novel foodstuff.

Extracts from Cannabis sativa L. (Hemp extracts)

Extracts with very different compositions, and by means of very different extraction methods, can be obtained from the various plant parts of cannabis sativa L.

Hemp extracts that contain cannabinoids are listed in the Novel Food Catalogue of the European Commission as novel foods because their use as a foodstuff prior to the 15 May 1997 cannot be confirmed. Consequently, the hemp extracts themselves, as well as products that contain hemp extracts as an ingredient, are considered to be novel foods. They may only be placed on the market with an authorisation from the FSVO or from the European Commission.

Cannabinoids, in particular cannabidiol (CBD)

More than 80 naturally occurring “cannabinoids” are found in hemp plant parts. The most important are the psychotropic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the non-psychotropic cannabidiol (CBD).

Up to now a significant degree of consumption of the individual substances of the cannabinoids as a foodstuff prior to the 15 May 1997 has been proven neither in Switzerland nor in the EU. Therefore, the following substances are judged as novel foodstuffs:

  • Cannabinoids from hemp plants (Cannabis sativa L.);
  • Cannabinoids from any other plant that contains cannabinoids;
  • Synthetically produced cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids, as well as hemp extracts, are listed as novel foodstuffs in the Novel Food Catalogue of the European Commission. Consequently, they may only be placed on the market with an authorisation from the FSVO or from the European Commission.

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Last modification 29.05.2019

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