Hemp has been used for diverse purposes for a long time. It has also been used as food. The historical use of hemp and the different parts of the plant as food are currently being clarified and discussed in working groups of the EU Commission. The aim is to detail the information on the history of use of hemp and its status as novel food in the Novel Food Catalogue of the Commission. This work has not been finished and the interpretations on this page will be updated if necessary.
Is hemp (Cannabis sativa) allowed to be used as/in foods?
The following parts of hemp are not novel and can be used as/in foods: seeds, seed oil, hemp seed flour, defatted hemp seed. The significant use of other parts of hemp has not been confirmed yet and therefore they cannot be used as/in foods if the significant history of consumption as food in the Union before 15 May 1997 cannot be proven. In addition, foods cannot contain psychotropic substances such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
What does significant use as food mean?
It means that food has been legally on the market and it has been used for human consumption to a significant degree in the Union before 15 May 1997. More information about significant use can be found here. If the food business operator is not sure whether or not a food which they intend to place on the market within the Union falls within the scope of the Novel Food Regulation (EU) 2015/2283, food business operator shall consult the Member State where it first intends to place the novel food. Food business operator shall provide the necessary information to the Member State to enable it to determine whether or not a food falls within the scope of Novel Food Regulation. More information about the consultation process is given in the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/456.
The cannabinoids in hemp
There are different cannabinoids in the hemp plant, most important being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) and its' precursor cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). Both THC and CBD have medicinal properties and therefore they are mentioned in the list of medicines of the Finnish Medicines Agency. THC is also a psychotropic substance, which can cause dependence. CBD is not known to have intoxicating properties.
Can foods containing THC be sold in Finland or in other countries in the EU?
In Finland foods cannot contain narcotic or psychotropic substances, such as THC. However, in some EU-countries small amounts of THC might be allowed in foods. The process of setting common maximum limit for THC in foods in the EU is ongoing, but for the moment there is no such limit.
Can foods containing CBD be sold in Finland or in other countries in the EU?
Extracts of Cannabis sativa L. and derived products containing cannabinoids (such as CBD) are considered novel foods as a history of consumption has not been demonstrated. This applies to both the extracts themselves and any products to which they are added as an ingredient (such as hemp seed oil). This also applies to extracts of other plants containing cannabinoids. Synthetically obtained cannabinoids are considered as novel. Marketing of novel foods requires authorisation under the Novel Food Regulation.
Marketing of hemp as food
The marketing of food as having medicinal properties is always prohibited. Foods produced from hemp cannot be marketed using medicinal claims.
Only approved claims complying with legislation can be used for the marketing of hemp. Nutritional claims can be used for nutrients that the hemp contains. Health claims have only been applied for hemp seed oil. The Commission has not yet made a decision on whether to approve or reject the health claims in question. Health claims for which the assessment process is not yet finished can be used in marketing for the time being.
Contact the food control authority of your municipality if you discover inappropriate or misleading marketing (the contact details are on the right).