Veterinarians, the pet food industry, and animal and public safety officials warn against feeding animals hemp products until studies show they are safe.
In a February letter to farm leaders and state policymakers, the Association of American Feed Control Officials and 16 co-signatory organizations, including the AVMA, expressed concern about the risks to animals and the pet food trade. with unproven products containing hemp. These concerns relate to pet, horse and livestock hemp feed and hemp products such as hemp seeds and hemp seed oil.
“We are of the opinion that sufficient scientific research to support the safety and usefulness of hemp in animal feed must be completed prior to any federal or state approvals,” the letter states.
A copy of the letter is available in PDF format. The Academy of Veterinary Consultants, American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, American Association of Bovine Practitioners and Nutrition Specialty of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine are also among the signatory organizations.
The letter expresses three main concerns: It is unclear whether farm animals fed hemp-based diets work as well as animals fed traditional diets, especially since research has yet to completely describes the effects of long-term exposure to cannabinoids, including low concentrations of the psychoactive substance. tetrahydrocannabinol. It is also not known how many cannabinoids are transferred into the meat, milk and eggs of food-producing animals. And any pet food containing hemp or human food produced by hemp-fed animals is subject to federal regulation if it crosses state lines, so these products could be considered adulterated.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp in the United States by growers licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture or state or tribal agencies, but this action did not authorize feeding it to animals. The Food and Drug Administration and AAFCO members decide which ingredients offered are safe and nutritious for animals.
Still, the AAFCO letter describes an accelerated use of hemp by-products in animal feed since 2018.
Information from state agencies indicates that some states already allow hemp products in some pet foods, and others have begun the process of authorizing uses in anticipation of federal approval.
Information from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, for example, indicates that pet foods and treats can be made from hemp extract. Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development guidelines state that while hemp cannot be sold or distributed in commercial food products, a person can supplement their own pet’s food with hemp or products hemp derivatives.
In April 2021, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a bill allowing the inclusion of hemp and hemp derivatives in pet, horse, and livestock foods once the state receives confirmation. that these ingredients have FDA approval.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture, however, had to warn pet food manufacturers that hemp and cannabidiol remain unapproved for use in animal feed, according to a January 2020 announcement.
“Over the past year, the SCDA has notified store owners that commercial food products containing hemp and CBD are illegal and must not be sold,” the announcement reads.
In September 2021, AAFCO officials called for more research into the safety and nutritional benefits of feeding hemp and its by-products to animals. The organization has encouraged the hemp and animal feed industries to collect useful data to define ingredients and develop standards.
The Hemp Feed Coalition is one of the organizations working to gain federal approval for hemp products, and following the fall 2021 AAFCO announcement, representatives from the coalition announced that they were working with AAFCO and the FDA and supporting scientific studies. Information from the coalition indicates that some farmers, cattle ranchers, horse owners and pet owners are already feeding hemp to their animals.
“Our efforts over the past several years have involved working directly with federal and state regulators to create a pathway to gaining approval for hemp ingredients for inclusion in pet foods for all species,” the report says. coalition announcement.
The seventeen organizations that sent the February letter encourage state leaders and hemp supporters to follow the federal regulatory pathways used for all other feed ingredients.
“We urge heads of state to support research through universities or private laboratories so that the safety and usefulness of hemp can be fully understood before it is licensed for commercial use,” says the letter. “We encourage sponsors to continue to gather data and work on submitting applications through the established feed ingredient review process.”