Hemp seeds can now be used in food in Australia

Posted By on 24/01/18 at 9:06 AM

Variations to the Food Standards in Australia and New Zealand commenced on 12 November 2017, permitting the use of low-THC hemp seeds as food for sale or as an ingredient in food for sale.

Hemp has already legally been used in food for many years in countries such as the USA, Canada and certain countries in Europe.  The change has been a long time coming in Australia with Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) receiving its first application to permit food derived from hemp in 2001.

What does the change allow?

The change allows the use of hemp seeds as food for sale or as an ingredient in food for sale, as well as oil extracted from hemp seeds, beverages derived from hemp seeds and other products.  All such food or ingredients are subject to a number of strict standards, such as:

  • the seeds must be low-THC and not contain more than a specified amount;
  • if the food is for retail sale, the seeds must be non-viable and hulled; and
  • the only cannabinoids in or on the seeds must be naturally present.

The changes also introduce restrictions on claims and representations about foods that are, or foods which contain, hemp food products.  These changes are directed at labelling and presentation of the product for sale to ensure products are not advertised as having psychoactive effects.

hemp seeds

Hemp production – what you need to know

Although the Food Standards have now been amended to allow hemp to be sold as food or in food, the laws regarding the possession, cultivation, processing and supply of hemp for food production are regulated by the individual States and Territories.  People involved in these areas will therefore need to confirm the laws in their respective State/Territory.  Such laws are strict in regulating who may be involved in the hemp industry.

For example, South Australia introduced the Industrial Hemp Act 2017 to apply from 12 November 2017, which allows people to apply for industrial hemp licences authorising them to possess, cultivate, process or supply industrial hemp for food production (and other purposes).  Applicants and their associates must not have been found guilty of a drug related offence and must be fit and proper persons to be concerned in or associated with the cultivation of hemp.

In Victoria, Part IV of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 allows people to apply for authority to cultivate, possess, process, sell and/or supply cannabis seed which has been harvested from low-THC cannabis for commercial or research purposes relating to non-therapeutic use.  The legislation does not specifically permit the cultivation of hemp seed for food, however this presumably falls under “commercial purposes”.  This is in line with Agriculture Victoria’s advice that hemp seed produced under the legislation can be sold as food from November 2017.

The production and sale of hemp seeds as food is regulated separately to that of medical cannabis.


If you require advice in relation to any of these issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

KHQ Lawyers - Fiona Trethewey

Fiona Trethewey Principal

Fiona Trethewey heads up our intellectual property team and specialises in intellectual property law and franchising.  She has extensive experience in assisting clients with a range of commercial issues... Read More