Two of the grocery industry’s key trade associations have signaled approval with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA's) release of a federal regulatory framework for domestic hemp.
Set in motion as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA’s interim hemp production rule is intended to help expand production of domestic hemp and to help meet the growing consumer demand for hemp-derived products.
Hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder and hemp seed oil are among the ingredients that can legally be used in the U.S. food supply at this time.
“USDA’s proposed regulations provide more clarity in the regulatory environment surrounding hemp, which continues to generate much enthusiasm among FMI’s members’ customers in the U.S.,” Food Marketing Institute (FMI) President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin said in a statement. However, she continued, “the lack of federal standards for the use of CBD in manufactured products, coupled with the current patchwork of state laws regulating CBD products, has created mass confusion for the public, for suppliers and retailers and for state regulators.”
Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, also commended the USDA’s interim rule “to bring some uniformity to hemp production and testing” while concurrently sharing his concerns about the lack of uniform federal regulatory framework in place for the burgeoning CBD industry.
Citing insights from new research conducted by Arlington, Va.-based GMA—which will become the Consumer Brands Association in January 2020—Freeman said many “Americans are already using hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), but a majority (76%) are under the assumption that CBD products are regulated at the federal level. USDA’s interim rule is certainly a good first step, but more is needed to protect consumers.
“Our current patchwork system of state regulations is simply not enough,” continued Freeman, who urged both the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration “to provide uniform, smart regulation informed by risk-based science on hemp-derived CBD quickly.”
Sarasin expressed similar concerns in regard to “the absence of a clear pathway to market” CBD products, which she said poses risks to consumers at present in the form of “unsubstantiated health and benefit claims, a lack of standardization in product labeling and packaging, and even products that do not contain the ingredients they purport to contain. The safety concerns and marketplace confusion surrounding CBD products will continue until the FDA provides additional clarity and guidance governing the production, sale, quality and marketing of these products,” said Sarasin, while urging the FDA “to move quickly to provide clarity.”
The official version of the rule will be published in the Federal Register on Oct. 31 and will be effective immediately, with a 60-day comment period ending Dec. 30. The USDA is also issuing several new forms and guidance documents to accompany the rule, which are available on the Agricultural Marketing Service website. The interim final rule becomes effective upon publication in the Federal Register.
“We are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We have had teams operating with all hands on deck to develop a regulatory framework that meets Congressional intent while seeking to provide a fair, consistent and science-based process for states, tribes and individual producers who want to participate in this program.”
Click here to view a message about the interim hemp production rule from Perdue.