Industry Hails USDA Interim Rule for Hemp Production
In the wake of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) newly released interim rule providing a federal regulatory framework for hemp, the grocery industry has expressed its approval of the measure, while cautioning that more needs to be done.
Noted Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of the Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI): “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. Having said that, 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. FMI highly values the role FDA plays in promoting public health and safety, but the absence of a clear pathway to market for these products means consumers currently face a variety of risks, including 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 FDA provides additional clarity and guidance governing the production, sale, quality and marketing of these products. We hope FDA will move quickly to provide clarity.”
Currently, despite the growing number of CBD products flooding into the marketplace, the FDA maintains that CBD may not be legally marketed as an ingredient in food or supplements, FMI observed.
“The CPG industry commends the USDA for releasing this interim rule to bring some uniformity to hemp production and testing,” said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, also based in Arlington. “Our research shows that 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. We urge the USDA and FDA to provide uniform, smart regulation informed by risk-based science on hemp-derived CBD quickly.”
“After extensive consultation with the Attorney General, USDA is issuing this interim final rule to establish the domestic hemp production program and to facilitate the production of hemp, as set forth in the 2018 Farm Bill,” the interim rule reads. “This interim rule will help expand production and sales of domestic hemp, benefiting both U.S. producers and consumers. With the publication of the interim rule, USDA will begin to implement the hemp program, including reviewing state and tribal plans and issuing licenses under the USDA hemp plan.”
There will be a 60-day comment period, following which USDA will evaluate all information collected during that time to adjust the rule, if necessary, before finalizing it.